By the time this is published, we will have seen nurses in England strike for the first time in their history.
Perhaps the Government will have seen sense and engaged in negotiations to bring this to an end, but I don’t hold out any hope.
Recent polls have shown that most of the population support the strike action.
Many of us have either recent personal contact with the NHS or know someone who has, and we appreciate the hard work nurses and doctors consistently produce.
Most of us clapped during the pandemic for our emergency staff but clapping won’t pay the bills or fill empty posts.
Nursing as a profession has faced pay cuts for the past decade and under investment for longer, yet the workforce is seeing pressures never before experienced.
Nurses are worse off now than 10 years ago, after years of pay freezes and below inflation pay deals.
Between 2011-21, Agenda for Change bands fell in value by an average of 11 per cent in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.
Urgent action is needed to tackle staffing pressures, sickness, burn-out and a growing backlog of undelivered care, and Governments across the UK must invest properly in a permanent workforce that meets patient demand now and in the future.
This includes adequate education and training for permanent staff, and making the profession safe and attractive by paying fairly.
Yet in 2020, the Government spent more than £6 billion on agency and bank staff in England, the same Government that bought billions of pounds of useless PPE but can’t find £10bn for nurses.
Back 10 years or so, most trusts wouldn’t have paid more than 10 per cent of their staffing bill on temporary and locum staff, but now 20 to 25 per cent is becoming common.
That is unsustainable and any organisation carrying a high level of unfilled vacancies would look at the pay it was offering, but not this Government.
The Government has also refused to negotiate on pay and continues to argue that it can’t interfere in the so-called independent pay review body.
However, it isn’t independent because it has its hands tied, it’s given the envelope to work within by the Government.
Yet the train bosses and the train workers agreed a deal that could’ve seen off the strikes on the trains at Christmas, but the Government intervened and blocked that deal.
I’ll end with a reflection from a healthcare professional who recently told me: “Our wellbeing is a sacrifice to deal with the inadequacies of the Government.
“They clap for us but don’t allow us to be considered for extra pay to repair the cuts of the last 10 years.
“They respect the work we do but stand outside, calling us liars for a situation not of our making.
“They are driving to sights beyond – if only their vision was adequate that they could actually see the consequences.”
On behalf of South Dorset Lib Dems