U.K. nurses strike over pay, testing a health care system in crisis


LONDON – British newspapers are calling it the “winter of sadness.”

Heavy weapons are creating chaos in hospitals and at transit offices, while firefighters, cashiers, paramedics, traffic inspectors, immigration officers, bus drivers, construction workers, mail carriers and train operators. The public has been warned to avoid traveling by train on Christmas Eve.

The saddest thing for the government – and the public – is that nurses have just gone on strike. Teachers are threatening to strike at the start of the new year.

Workers across the public sector are protesting 12 years of the Conservative Party’s “shared budget” and rising cost of living by 2022. cost of electricity here the government intervenes to close and help heat the homes. bills to keep people from freezing in their homes.

This follows the death of the former Tory government, Liz Truss, the shortest prime minister in modern British history. He called for the elimination of tax credits but had no way to pay for them, causing the markets to panic and Truss to retire early.

Now the British government is preparing to mobilize 1,200 paramedics to drive ambulances during the holidays. Civil servants from other agencies are brought in to check passports at border crossings, if necessary.

During the worst years of the coronavirus pandemic, millions of British people, along with Prime Minister Boris Johnson (also absent), stood at their doors during the lockdown. banging pots and pans and clapping their hands for National Health Service workers, thanking them in advance. -store line.

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Now nurses say they need more than applause. They are burned out, overworked and underpaid, they say, and they want inflation to rise sharply, already above 10 percent.

“They benefit us,” said Rachel Ambrose, 40, a mental health nurse who works with children and adolescents in Oxford. “We’re not looking for a glamorous lifestyle. We’re nurses. We just want to pay our bills. We want to be hot.”

Ambrose said that the nurses “are fired up, we are angry, we have decided,” and that these strikes “continue because they don’t care about us.”

He pointed to staff shortages in the NHS that were hampering the care of patients and nurses at the scene of the outbreak. Sick days have increased since the pandemic – and so have nurses leaving the profession or moving abroad.

The UK health system is short 50,000 nurses. Half of new workers today come from overseas because the UK cannot afford to train at home or the wages are too low to attract new workers. Brexit also blocked the “free” flow of nurses from Eastern Europe to Britain.

The government says nurses now earn an average of 35,600 pounds ($43,300). New nurses are paid less; nurses with special skills will be paid more; overtime pay will also be increased.

Nurses earn more in the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland, Germany and Spain. British nurses, however, are paid more than their counterparts in France and Italy.

After one of the worst weeks of strikes in British history, the new government of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is still refusing to sit down with the unions, saying that the wage increase ” unaffordable” and warned that the government should hold the line on payments. to keep the increase.

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The state supports a minimum wage for ambulance crews and nurses – recommended by independent wage review groups – of about 4.75 percent. The nurses’ union is demanding a 19 percent raise.

Sunak’s spokesman on Monday told reporters that it was “irresponsible to move forward with double-price tags.”

But Sunak and his government ministers are learning that it’s one thing to fight the railroad workers and their “union bosses,” as the government refers to them, and another to fight the nurses. Rail strikes are creating a nasty blow for commuters and holidaymakers – highlighted by anti-union posters. On the other hand, nurses are valued. A YouGov poll this month found that 64 percent of Europeans supported a strike by nurses.

On Monday, Sunak called an emergency cabinet meeting to come up with a plan to keep the nation’s capital operating, with the army on standby.

Around 10,000 ambulance workers in England and Wales will go on strike on Wednesday. Members of the Royal College of Nurses union walked out on Thursday and will return to the picket line on Sunday.

Nurses working in emergency rooms have remained on the job, but hospitals are struggling to retain staff for basic care. Many procedures, tests, emergency surgeries and other treatments have been delayed.

Some heart attack or stroke victims are waiting almost an hour on average for ambulances – compared to the 18-minute target.

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At local doctors’ offices, where most patients see their doctors and nurses, workers describe a system in crisis due to lack of funding and understaffing.

Anthony Johnson, 29, a cardiac nurse in Leeds, is among those supporting the Royal College of Nursing’s decision to walk out for the first time in 106 years.

“There is no price increase that will make up for the increase. That’s why you see nurses going to food banks, the number of jobs has increased dramatically,” he said. “We have nurse-to-patient ratios. Our clinical guidelines are one nurse to eight patients, but that’s not being met most of the time. In reality, it’s one nurse to 13 patients , so it’s going to be dangerous and the patients are going to suffer.”

He likes working in Britain and will stay. But many are on the outside looking in, he warned.

“We are training nurses for export, usually to Canada, Australia and New Zealand… nurses can earn 10,000 pounds more. [$12,200]”, said Johnson. “Instead of investing in our staff, the British government is stealing nurses from other parts of the world. They are cutting costs and offering that.

Julia Patterson, founder of Every Doctor, an advocacy group for 1,200 UK doctors, said: “Doctors are very supportive and united to keep patients safe without nurses. They work hard. to work, but they are supporting their colleagues to work.”

He said doctors are being voted on to see if they can beat the new year.

“People are dying because of poor public health,” Patterson said.


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