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Nurses march for pay increase

PROTESTERS gathered in London to demand better pay for NHS staff as nurses feel “completely demoralised” by not being awarded a pay rise.  

The protest, organised by the Unite union on Wednesday, saw nurses, key workers and members of the public march from Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospital to Downing Street holding banners and homemade placards.

Last week, the government announced that doctors, dentists, teachers, judges and police officers will be among those to receive a pay increase of up to 3.1 per cent.

However, nurses, junior doctors, hospital porters and cleaners were all absent from the list.  

Fazilah Fatimah, 26, who works in the intensive care unit at Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospital, said that the announcement had left her feeling “disappointed and undervalued.” 

She said: “If people understood the skills required to undertake our job, along with its impact on our physical and mental health, they would realise why we are so disheartened by the decisions regarding our pay.

“As a nurse I feel we are seen as doormats — we are known for being treated badly but carrying on and the government has made us feel completely undervalued in society.” 

After contracting Covid-19 in April Prime Minister Boris Johnson praised the staff of St Thomas’s Hospital for saving his life. 

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said that nurses were not included as a result of a three-year “Agenda for Change” pay and contract-reform deal that was agreed with NHS trade unions in 2018.

The spokesperson added: “We are incredibly grateful for all their hard work and dedication during the pandemic and we will continue to ensure that all staff are rewarded fairly. 

“We are expecting the NHS Pay Review Body, which covers Agenda for Change staff within their remit, to return to making recommendations for next year’s pay awards.” 

However, many nurses criticised this response. 

Lauren Welsh, 25, a critical care nurse who worked on the frontline in an intensive care unit, said: “One of the terms agreed as part of this deal was that, should circumstances change, the pay deal could be reviewed earlier than planned.  

“I think we can all agree that a global pandemic could be one of the biggest changes in circumstances that the NHS and the entire world could have ever faced.”  

Intensive care nurse Sokila Begum, 27, who has been caring for Covid-19 patients at a hospital in London, believes nurses should receive a pay increase for their work during the pandemic. 

She said:  “After eight weeks of clapping, I feel completely betrayed — as though what myself and my colleagues went through was just expected of us as our duty; we are not even seen as humans.  

“It takes away from the fact that I am someone’s daughter, wife, sister and friend who went through something unprecedented at work.” 

This week’s action will be followed by a nationwide protest on August 8 to demand a pay increase for all NHS staff.  

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