Preston NHS worker's personal plea to the Prime Minister over better pay for a job that is about 'more than wiping bottoms'.
A healthcare assistant from Preston, whose petition requesting a pay rise for NHS support staff was signed by almost 150,000 people, has written to the Prime Minister asking him to consider the matter personally.
Shane Longton, who works at Clifton Hospital in Lytham St Annes, made the original call for better remuneration – and recognition – of workers like him in a Facebook post back in February. It attracted attention for his list of the dozens of unseen jobs done by health service staff categorised as “unskilled” – and for stressing that the role is about 'more than wiping bottoms'.
Little did he know at the time of the tidal wave of devastation – and appreciation – that was about to hit the NHS frontline as the coronavirus crisis took hold.
Within days of the weekly ‘clap for carers’ event beginning, support for Shane’s petition on the Parliament website skyrocketed – easily exceeding the 100,000 signatories required to force the Commons authorities to consider allowing time for the issue to be debated at Westminster.
With the parliamentary timetable disrupted by the ongoing crisis, Shane has yet to hear anything – and so has gone straight to the man at the top, telling Boris Johnson that a pay rise would be a tangible way of recognising the efforts of those “who are the spirit and backbone of our NHS”.
The letter adds: “Our healthcare workers, who until recently were deemed unskilled by the government, are now classed as essential in this battle to save the many lives of people contracting coronavirus. Every day we are leaving the safety of our homes to risk our lives and continuing to provide a crucial service during this pandemic.”
Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Shane says that he hopes the PM will reflect on his own recent experience of how NHS staff at all levels helped him during his hospitalisation with Covid-19 before he decides how to respond to the pay request.
“He has seen first-hand how hard we all work and issued a personal thank you after he left hospital. He must also be experiencing that feeling of relief you get when you recover from something – so hopefully that gratitude will come through in his response.
“When you see politicians taking part in the clap for carers, it can seem a bit performative – especially if they then go and brush off something like a request for pay rise.”
When approached about Shane’s campaign earlier this year, the Department for Health and Social Care said that the lowest starting salary in the NHS will have risen from £15,404 to £18,005 between 2018/19 and April 2021. A spokesperson described healthcare assistants as a “vital part of the NHS”.
But Shane says that a pre-planned pay rise is not the same as special recognition for a role whose importance has long gone unacknowledged.
He also says that all NHS staff deserve to be taking home more money for the work they are doing under the threat of Covid-19 – but that his petition, which was drawn up before the extent of the outbreak became known, cannot now be amended before being considered by the parliamentary authorities.
“I hope that everybody in the NHS gets the recognition they deserve when this is all over,” Shane added.