Claps and a 1% pay rise: England’s forgotten healthcare workers

Emily O'Dowd reveals how England's invaluable healthcare workers have been left behind.

Emily O'Dowd
30th March 2021
Photo: Tim Dennell, Flickr
With the pandemic raging on and the NHS on the brink of collapse, Britain's healthcare workers have been rightly proclaimed as heroes by the public and politicians alike over the past year, but many feel as though they’re being forgotten by a broken system. 

At the beginning of March, Boris Johnson announced that NHS staff in England would only receive a 1% pay increase this year, rather than the 2.1% increase that was expected as part of the health services long term plan published in 2019. According to the general secretary of the Royal College of Nurses Dame Donna Kinnair, this would amount to an increase of only £3.50 to an experienced nurse’s weekly take-home pay. Once inflation is taken into account, many critics are even suggesting that this ‘pay rise’ actually amounts to a pay cut in real terms. Considering that over 850 UK healthcare workers are thought to have died of Covid-19 between March and December 2020 with thousands more risking their lives every day to keep us safe, this increase seems wholly inadequate.  

Clapping is great, but as many healthcare workers have pointed out over the past year, they can’t eat claps.

Towards the beginning of the pandemic in March last year, the Clap for Carers campaign began as a way for the public to show their appreciation for healthcare workers. Every Thursday evening at 8 pm, the nation stood clapping on their doorstep to show their support. However, whilst gestures like this one are both heartfelt and meaningful, they are ultimately useless if no real change is enacted. Clapping is great, but as many healthcare workers have pointed out over the past year, they can’t eat claps. The most effective way for the government to show their appreciation for healthcare workers would be to grant them a worthy pay rise, but this appears to be a step too far for our Prime Minister. 

As a result of the government’s failure, many healthcare workers are now planning strike action and the public is being urged to once again go out on their doorsteps to show support, this time partaking in a slow clap as an act of protest. Healthcare workers are angry, and it seems that they won’t allow themselves to be forgotten again. 

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