Pay rise 'won't even pay for a coffee' during hard shifts on front line say NHS staff

Lancashire hospital staff who have 'risked their lives' working gruelling hours throughout the pandemic have spoken out about their disbelief at the government's proposed one per cent pay rise offer.

Wednesday, 10th March 2021, 4:54 pm

Nurses have thrown their weight behind a trade union campaign calling on the government to reconsider its proposal, that would see staff bring home an estimated average of £3.50 a week extra.

Staff at Royal Preston Hospital witnessed colleagues lock themselves in bathrooms to cry and work 12-hour shifts without any breaks at the peak of the second wave, the Post can reveal.

One nurse, who will remain nameless, told the Post exclusively that she witnessed nurses at RPH 'locking themselves in bathrooms and crying' during 12-hour long shifts, claimed they saw staff work 'full days without any breaks' and said that colleagues were considering leaving the NHS to work for agency companies, although Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust said there was no evidence of this.

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The news comes as the government announced a proposed one per cent pay increase for NHS staff in England due to financial pressures caused by the Covid pandemic.

The rise, which will be put to an independent panel, would cover most hospital staff.

But the RCN union has called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to increase the wages by 12.5 per cent.

And the Post understands that Royal Preston Hospital had to rely on agency workers or redeployed nurses from other departments during the Coronavirus crisis.

Hospital staff have spoken out about their disbelief at the government's proposed one per cent pay rise offer

A student nurse who has been working at the Royal Preston Hospital during Covid has written to the Prime Minister urging him to show more compassion by increasing the Government's "insulting" one per cent pay offer.

The trainee, who asked not to be named in the media, has told Boris Johnson the rise will not even pay for a coffee during a hard shift on the NHS frontline.

"It's just so disheartening," she told the Post, "I'm only a student, but I see the strain my colleagues have been under in the past year. And this is all they're worth?"

In her letter to the PM, she tells the story of the frontline nurses she has worked with and challenges him to "justify the one per cent after reading this."

Staff at Royal Preston Hospital have spoken about how they 'risked their lives' during the Covid-19 pandemic

She says: "Each shift is a sacrifice of our own needs, health and well-being. And yes it's hard, but we love it. We don’t moan we just do it. It's in our blood.

"We are exactly where we are meant to be when we are holding in our six-hour needed wee flying from patient to patient.

"We can't remember the last time we drank a brew still hot. We can't remember the last time we didn’t have a headache. We can’t remember the last time we went home without bearing the suffering of others.

"We carry the weight of the sick and their loved ones and we always have room for more. We stare death in the face daily. We choose to surround ourselves with suffering in hope of taking some of that away from this world.

Staff 'locked themselves in bathrooms to cry' during the peak of the second wave at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals

"We are brave. We carry the weight of decisions only fate can dictate. We love what we do. We have a chest that’s on fire with empathy. It hurts us.

"Usually when we're alone, all the pain we have seen, but not yet processed, comes flooding back in the staff room. Or we finally go for that wee and pray for the patients and their families.

"We risk our lives. We don’t eat because were fuelled on adrenaline, resulting in burn-out and sickness. We are holding it together. We are doing the best we can and now we are asking you to do the best you can."

Talking about her letter, she told the Post: "It's not just nurses, it's about support workers as well. They are all trying their best to help patients, yet they get a kick in the teeth for their efforts. They are only just surviving. The burn-out we see is incredible.

"There is talk of possible strike action and I wouldn't be surprised if it happened with the amount of outrage there is over this pay offer. It's just shocking.

"We all remember Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock clapping for NHS heroes during the first lockdown. With a one per cent pay rise that was clearly just a sham. I don't know how they dared to announce it. They must have no shame.

The one per cent pay rise would only give staff an estimated £3.50 a week extra

"I decided to send a letter to the Prime Minister and once I started typing I couldn't stop. The rage was just pouring out.

"All we want is a fair pay offer. We want to feel valued. And all those frontline staff who have put their lives on the line during the pandemic need to be rewarded for that."

At last Friday's Downing Street briefing, March 5, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the pay increase reflected the "difficult financial circumstances the country is in".

He said: "One of the challenges we've faced as a country is in terms of the financial consequences of the pandemic.

"We've proposed what we think is affordable to make sure in the NHS people do get a pay rise."

Another member of staff from Royal Preston Hospital, who was redeployed as a nurse also bravely spoke of her experience covering shifts at the critical care unit during the peak of the second wave.

She has also signed the petition from the RCN union which urges the government to recognise the efforts of all NHS staff.

She said: "Our workforce was already underpaid and our morale was low even before the pandemic came along. Then when Covid hit, staff from every department in the hospital were asked to help out elsewhere because of the struggles from the pandemic.

"Nurses, doctors and all NHS staff are very much there to care and make people better, but nobody asked to be put through this, and the hard work of the workforce isn't recognised by the government and that is reflected in how we are paid.

"They have all risked their lives on a daily basis and it has been absolutely horrific for so many front line workers, so why do our wages not go up with inflation?

"I think if the government showed appreciation and gratitude for the work of all those in the NHS, then staff would bend over backwards, but now we are left asking for a pay rise that needs to cover the last 10 years.

"People need to stop clapping for us because it is not enough, there is nothing being offered to help staff for their hard work. I have never discussed politics but this had made me so angry and upset because money is being thrown to the wrong people and not those saving lives.

"We need to be offered something so we feel the government and the public is behind us."

Dame Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing said: “This is pitiful and bitterly disappointing. The government is dangerously out of touch with nursing staff, NHS workers and the public.

“It is not a done deal but the government has revealed its hand for the first time. With the time remaining before the Pay Review Body recommendation, the government can expect a backlash from a million NHS workers.

"Taxpayers are supportive of a significant and fair pay rise for NHS workers – this year of all years.

“If the Pay Review Body accepts the government view, a pay award as poor as this would amount to only an extra £3.50 per week take-home pay for an experienced nurse. Nobody would think that is fair in the middle of a pandemic and it will do nothing to prevent the exodus from nursing.

“Nursing staff would feel they are being punished and made to pay for the cost of the pandemic. It is a political decision to underfund and undervalue the nursing staff."

Commenting on staff experiences during the pandemic, a Lancashire Teaching Hospitals spokesperson said: "LTH has supported staff throughout the pandemic with a variety of measures which ensures their health and wellbeing remains a top priority for the organisation.

"The Trust has expanded its psychological support service for staff, provided access to a range of health and wellbeing resources, provided support sessions for redeployed staff, ran bespoke mindfulness courses and created Leadership support circles amongst other support initiatives.

"We are extremely fortunate to have such dedicated, hardworking staff and we are incredibly proud of their extraordinary efforts throughout the pandemic."

The Department of Health was contacted by the Post but has not yet responded.

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