‘Why nurses are striking’ – letter to the editor asking for our help and support

NHS protest. Photo by Roo Pitt from Norwich. Wikimedia Commons

Dear West Country Voices,

Nurses are the first health professionals to vote for strike action. I fully support them and I hope that those of you reading this will too. The NHS has been ground into the soil by 12 years of ideological attacks designed to make it as cheap to sell to vulture capitalists as possible and it’s time to draw a line and say that enough is enough. We can no longer provide safe patient care thanks to chronic understaffing and outdated crumbling hospital estates and equipment.  

I am a biomedical scientist who works in cancer diagnostics, and for the first time in my 16 year career I, too, have just voted yes in my union’s ballot for strike action. If this vote passes, then I will be joining my brave nursing colleagues on the picket line, standing shoulder to shoulder with them to demand better for our patients. 

When I started my career in 2006 Labour were in power; we weren’t totally where we needed to be as a service by any means and many improvements still needed to be made as the hangover of the previous Conservative government had not fully lifted. All of the damage that the Thatcher and Major governments had done to the NHS was still being slowly repaired almost 9 years after they had been ousted.

However, despite the problems we faced at that time, things were a thousand times better than they are now. If we needed a vital piece of equipment then we would usually be able to purchase it so long as we could provide a good business case. Repairs were done to the fabric of the buildings.

Since the Tory party took over in 2010 and ” austerity and efficiency savings” arrived, I have seen the NHS decimated into a husk of its former self. We have a chronic staffing shortage to the point where I am currently doing three people’s jobs constantly. This is unsustainable.

I was lucky to start in the NHS when I did; I had my degree paid for by working alongside studying for it and sacrificing part of my salary to pay my tuition fees. New recruits now arrive with tens of thousands of pounds in student debt and, due to the below inflation pay, it is a less attractive prospect for them. As a result the career – one which is vital to ensure people get the cancer care they need – is struggling to attract staff and get results out fast enough. The staff shortages are exacerabated by wages which have not kept up with inflation. I have trained for 14 of the past 16 years to get where I am, getting two degrees and four post graduate qualifications and yet I could earn more money having done no university qualifications by working as a supermarket manager.

I did not come into my career to get rich; anyone thinking they could do so would be a fool. I do my job because I want to help patients get the healthcare they deserve. All of us in the NHS do. Yet I constantly feel like I am fighting my own government to be able to do that just because THEY want to get rich quick by selling off our precious NHS.

This is why we are striking, this is why we need your support. My heart swelled in 2020 when I heard the clapping on doorsteps for the first time. But claps don’t pay bills, claps don’t attract young graduates to do a very hard and complicated yet fulfilling career in healthcare.

So please, remember the last few years, remember how you stood with us in 2020 and now stand with us, YOUR healthcare workers, and demand a real term pay rise for us and better investment in our services. At some point all of us will need to access healthcare.

Please write to your MP and support us. Please vote for a party that will give the NHS a better deal in the upcoming election and please know we care very deeply for you, our wonderful patients.

We want what’s best for our patients and striking and disrupting services truly is the last thing we want to do. But enough is enough. We have no option left. 

Thank you

Carl Garner,