Danny, a student nurse representing Wales NHS Workers Say No speaking at the Black Lives Matter event on 5 September in Cardiff.
“Thanks to the organisers. This event links together many struggles as we in the NHS have a real perspective on how social and political injustice are intertwined and how one feeds the other. You can rest assured that those of us involved in Wales NHS Workers say No in our current fight with the Tory government over pay and conditions fully understand these links and support all of you in your struggles on the ground.
There may be people who might say “What does a pay fight in the NHS have to do with social issues like sexism and racism?” Well, the answer to that is twofold, firstly our fight is not just about pay and conditions but about protecting our NHS from privatisation and building a better, safer, sustainable service for everyone that is properly funded and staffed. Secondly, these issues are part of our everyday work in the NHS. Take my field of work, mental health, in the UK today black people are four times more likely to be sectioned under the mental health act than white people. Depending on how you count, we live in either the 5th or 6th richest nation on the planet, and yet amongst all this wealth, today in the UK black women are five times more likely to die of complications during pregnancy and childbirth, and their babies are twice as likely to be stillborn.
Mercy Baguma, originally from Uganda, was discovered in a flat in Glasgow on Saturday 22 August after the sounds of her son crying were heard – the baby lived. She died of extreme poverty of, that is of starvation. She had lost her job after her right to work had expired. We live in a nation of riches, where Mothers and babies are being left to go hungry.
These facts and statistics are unacceptable in 2020, these things must change, they can and will change, but only if we fight for these things to change. This has to mean more than unity in words; it must mean unity in action.
Next Saturday on the 12 September, Wales NHS Workers say No! are holding three demonstrations in South Wales, here in the capital, in my city of Swansea and also in Merthyr Tydfil [now been cancelled because of Coronavirus outbreaks]. These demonstrations are calling for a 15% pay rise across the board, active immediately. A lot of people think this is just about nurses. This is not the case, due to the epidemic nurses have been front and centre in the media of late, but it is not just about us, just as the NHS is not just about us. It is about the healthcare assistants, the porters, the admins, the domestics without whom the NHS would grind to a halt in literally minutes.
But as a student nurse, I would like to look at our 15% demand and how it relates to the nursing profession. An entry-level nurse at the top of band 5, when adjusted for inflation has seen their pay cut by just over 20% in the last ten years. So, when Boris tells you how much he valued the nurses who saved his hide earlier this year, that is how much he really does!
But this isn’t just about pay. It’s not just about us having two weeks in Benidorm or a slightly more expensive bottle of wine from Lidl on a Friday night. It’s about how low pay and conditions are depleting the profession. Since 2010, 140000 nurses have left the service if they had worked just two years each that is well over a quarter of a million years of experience lost forever. This has implications. Implications for everyone.
A depleted nursing workforce leads inevitably to declining standards of care as staff simply cannot cope with the pressures of work. This will lead to people waiting longer for more inferior care, and inevitably people dying when they needn’t of had to. It’s a matter of life and death. It’s that serious. We are crying out for you to help us to help you and to care properly for you.
Please support us next week, unity is strength.
15% now! Victory to the NHS!