NHS workers rally, Sheffield 2020 NHS workers rally, Sheffield 2020. Photo: Tim Dennell / CC BY-NC 2.0

After being on the frontlines of the fight against the pandemic, health workers were rewarded with a pay cut by the Tories. Now they’re fight­ing back and demanding 15%. We spoke to Staff Nurse and activist Stacey Richardson about the conditions in the NHS and the campaign

What are conditions like in the NHS at the moment? What kind of impact has the pandemic actually had?

stacey-richardson-lg.jpgThe working environment obvi­ously differs from department to department. We all have very differ­ent roles to play. I think I speak for the majority though when I say that staff morale is extremely low.

Staff sickness is at an all time high – many of this being due to stress, anxiety and depression as well as burnout. Much of the NHS has sadly existed on good will for a long time, these wonderful people who have only good intentions are very tired now and feeling very lost.

The decade of austerity has caused so much damage and will are really seeing the effects of this now. One of the most problem­atic areas of impact caused by the pandemic, for me, is the amount of cancellations and postponement in patient surgery and treatments.

We are already caring for some very de-conditioned patients. This makes recovery from our intervention often more complicated and risky. It really isn’t fair for people to wait, often in pain with worsening conditions.

Perhaps if we could have staffed the Nightingale Hospitals properly to care for covid patients this wouldn’t be as much of an issue? Just a thought.

What is the mood among your workmates?

The mood across the board is really quite poor. I think much of it now is the fear of “what next”?

We’ve all worked throughout the pandemic in high stress situ­ations and the backlog of work we’ve missed out on is upon us too.

We are lucky in so many ways though – we are fantastic teams. I do see my team as my extended family, I’m very protective of them. We see what many would class as miracles every day and we all play an important part of making them happen. I cannot deny to others that our work can still be joyful as well as devastating.

Similar fears and worries seem to impact us. We have a lack of stability and normality which people can only cope with for so long. Even now, the pandemic is far from over – despite what the media may tell us. So many staff are suffering from the likes of post trau­matic stress disorders due to the horrors of the pandemic. Some of these amazing people we have lost and may never get back to working in healthcare. Staff reten­tion is an absolute worry at the moment. We need big changes!

What role can the People’s Assembly and the other NHS campaign groups play in broaden­ing the fight?

We are all so grate­ful for organisations like the People’s Assembly and NHS campaign groups. It is so important to us to have this level of support.

The Government’s pay proposal is no more insulting than the first. The Royal College of Nursing has an industrial action fund, which will help us to fight.

I would like to see organisa­tions and unions come together with staff should we need to carry out industrial action.

Striking is a huge deal for NHS staff and absolutely not normal practice by any stretch of the imagination. We still need to keep patient safety at the fore­front whilst working together with these fantastic originations to save our NHS.

The advice and guidance from these organisations are key to staff becoming empowered and able to have their voices heard loud and clear.

How are you preparing for the October mobilisation in Manchester?

The People’s Assembly are protesting the Tory Conference in Manchester on the 3 October – I hope this will be a powerful event. NHS Staff Voices are also hoping to play a big role.

I’m very eager to be part of this personally. I think for NHS staff like myself who often work very long and unsocial hours, online organis­ing and rallies are so important too.

Accessibility for all is some­thing I’m hugely passionate about – this is something I’ve found and feel very involved in within our online community. I have in the past year been involved in public speak­ing – both online and in person. This is something I find incredibly empowering and hope to have some involvement in again in October.

I urge NHS staff, service users and our public to join with us this October. We need to keep our wonderful patients at the centre of everything we do.

We all have a very important voice, whatever your role. Staying quiet doesn’t work.

Join the People’s Assembly demonstration at the Tory party conference in Manchester, 3 October

From this month’s Counterfire freesheet

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