‘Tired and fed up’: UK nurses driven to radical action

LONDON:  “We’re tired. We’re fed up. We need a pay rise now to make a living,” said Ameera, a senior nurse in a London hospital who is going on strike.

Dates for the nursing’s first strike in 106 years were announced on Friday (Nov 25), as union leaders and health workers blamed overwork, staff shortages, low pay and the cost-of-living crisis.

“We have not chosen industrial action lightly,” said Ameera, who asked not to have her full name used. “We have tried to negotiate, but we can’t settle this in any other manner.”

Doctors and nurses were lauded by the public and politicians for their efforts during the COVID-19 crisis. But some of them paid the ultimate price, said Ameera.

“I had a few of my colleagues that passed away from COVID-19,” Ameera told AFP.

“They have families and they gave their life to working for the NHS (National Health Service), and for what? Just for the government and the world clapping for us?”

TRAUMA

Overwork, stress and shrinking real-term wages – already a problem even before COVID-19 – have driven morale among nurses to rock bottom, she said.

“There was a solid three months during the pandemic where I worked night shifts,” said Ameera.

“It traumatised me so much that I actually remember I didn’t see any daylight at all.”

Ameera took time off for stress, returning as a non-contracted nurse who could choose her hours. That meant sacrificing benefits such as annual leave and a pension.

Other disillusioned nurses simply left and never returned, leaving a staffing void that has yet to be filled.

Post-Brexit immigration rules and a tight labour market mean 48,000 nursing roles are now vacant.

Some nurses are leaving to join agencies, where they are drafted back in to cover shifts at much higher wages, she added.

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