LONDON – As Covid has made its devastating impact around the world, millions of Britons have stood at their front doors. Every Thursday at 8pm, clapping and banging pots to thank the country’s health workers. Less than three years later, hundreds of thousands of nurses in England are estimated to.
Have walked off the job on Wednesday as part of an unprecedented. Strike that rocked the country’s much-loved but troubled National Health Service.
Nurses are pushing for a 5% pay rise above inflation – currently 13.4% – but the government says it can’t afford it. They are also striking to highlight the long. Term deterioration of services amid chronic shortages of healthcare. Workers and ballooning living costs.
Nurses told NBC News that the health service, which is funded by taxes and offers free treatment at the point of use. Is failing to hire enough staff, struggling to cope with demand and having to cancel critical operations or send patients to hospital. 150 miles away.
Matt Smith, 43, is a pediatric intensive care nurse at a London hospital. Whose department takes patients from emergency rooms across London. He says that despite doing essential work, he cannot afford to live in the capital – one of the most expensive cities in the world.
Although her salary has increased by less than 2% this year — well below inflation — she and other nurses face rising costs.
“Sometimes it takes an hour and a half to work and this year my salary award was 1.9%, while the train company is raising prices by 5% or 6% next year. Inflation is 11%,” he said. “Food prices are ridiculously high, energy prices are high.”
On top of that, the nursing shortage is making work increasingly stressful for medical staff as well as patients. Added Smith, who is among thousands on strike. Even when beds are available at his hospital, he said, sick children. Are often redirected to other medical centers located far from his hospital.
“We have to decide if we can accept this patient. Do we have nurses, or do we have to send them somewhere else and it could be 100, 150 miles away to another intensive care unit,” he said.
According to health think tank Nuffield Trust, there are approximately 17,000 nursing posts unfilled in the. Health service on any given day. Last year, nurses’ pay may have fallen about 10% below 2011 levels, it said.
“When I first started, there was always some pressure, especially with the winter flu and things like that. But never the staffing shortage we have now,” said Smith, who, like other nurses,
asked NBC News if their hospitals were punitive. Can’t be named to avoid action. “I can never remember a time when we had so many patients that we couldn’t admit, that were being transferred elsewhere.”
He added: “People can’t cope with it anymore, that’s why so many people are leaving.”
According to Nuffield, between 2021 and 2022, 1 in 9 nurses will leave active duty.
Nurses are not alone: Britain is facing public sector strikes, with teachers, train drivers. Postal workers and even driving test examiners all voting for industrial action, in a strike-filled 1970s and 1980s.
But while nursing strikes were underway in the 1970s, the Royal College of Nursing, the union that represents most nurses in England. Held its first strike action in its 116-year history on 15 and 20 Decembers are scheduled for February. 6 and 7.
Meanwhile, the health service, normally a huge source of pride for Britons. Has been strained by long and short-term factors as a result of the pandemic. Regulated by the British government, the service was. Set up after World War II as a means of providing “cradle-to-grave” care for the entire country.
Today, its massive 153 billion-pound ($187.5 billion) budget is paid for through general taxation. Which the Conservative government is reluctant to raise. Health service jobs – around 10% of the total workforce of more than 1.3 million. According to figures published by NHS England.
Waiting times for urgent care and elective surgery continue to rise, its data shows. And in December more than 10 separate hospitals and ambulance trusts declared critical incidents. Meaning they could not provide “normal operational functions” in a safe environment.
1 in 3 people who called the 999 emergency number waited for more than thre. And-a-half hours, NHS England said in its monthly report on ambulance performance.
A government public information campaign is urging people not to call 999. And instead use the 111 service. Which deals with less serious cases.
According to NHS Engine, a record 54,000 people. Waited more than 12 hours in emergency departments in December.