Read below for Kate’s latest column in the Shields Gazette.
As we know only too well our brilliant NHS staff have been at the forefront of our response to Covid-19, spending long hours wearing PPE in overwhelming environments.
Frontline NHS staff have publicly stated that colleagues have broken down in tears on many occasions, and that the past year has had a severe psychological impact on them owing to stress associated with separation from their families, sleep deprivation and heavy workloads.
The whole of society is extremely thankful for their work in protecting us, looking after our loved ones and keeping the country going.
The country came together to clap for our carers, but claps don’t pay the bills and what is not in doubt is that our NHS workers deserve to be rewarded financially for their dedication during these tough times.
I can’t speak highly enough of NHS staff across the Jarrow constituency for all they have done and continue to do in our fight against Covid-19.
And I also can’t speak highly enough of all the South Tyneside District Hospital and Queen Elizabeth Hospital workers who have delivered vital care to many of my constituents throughout the pandemic.
NHS staff up and down the country have worked tirelessly in extremely challenging circumstances for the past 12 months, which makes the proposed 1% pay rise a complete insult.
Last week in a Parliamentary debate on this issue, I said the proposed pitiful pay increase is a big kick in the teeth for more than a million hard-working NHS staff. I wholeheartedly agree with the 14 health unions representing the one million plus health workers who have called for a significant pay rise for NHS workers. It has been encouraging to see in my inbox, messages of overwhelming public support for them.
A fair and decent pay rise is supported by recent independent analysis by London Economics. It found that the net cost of a pay rise is only around one fifth of the Government’s stated cost once factors such as the additional tax gained and the economic impact of extra consumer spending are taken into account.
During the lockdown, I took part in the weekly clap for our carers, along with my family, because I genuinely wanted to show my appreciation. I know that, in some cases, nurses have had to rely on food banks as they struggle to make ends meet. But many low-paid workers are struggling through the pandemic on low pay with higher costs, and they are falling into poverty and debt.
A meagre 1% pay rise is not a meaningful pay rise; after inflation, it is essentially a pay cut, and an insult. It sends all the wrong signals to the NHS workers who have kept our country going during this dreadful pandemic. It is an utter betrayal by this Government not to give our NHS workers a bigger pay rise. The Prime Minister spent three nights in intensive care, on a ward for patients who needed specialist attention. He said afterwards: “I can’t thank them enough. I owe them my life.”
Our caring, wonderfully committed NHS staff stood by the Prime Minister’s bedside, watching him during the night. The NHS protected him. It protected us. Now is the time for Boris Johnson and his government to give something back in return.