After one year of the Coronavirus pandemic, the UK public (rightly) felt gutted by the stress imposed upon them — either by suffering unprecedented illness themselves, or from watching loved ones wither and sometimes die alone in Hospital, or by living with the unnatural conditions in a ‘lockdown’ that was implemented to protect large numbers of Britons from becoming exposed to, or spreaders of, the COVID-19 pathogen.
So try to imagine what it was like for the country’s NHS (National Health Service) staff who worked all day within inches of severely ill people suffering from a largely unknown virus, while wearing ill-fitting PPE, and in Hospitals filled beyond capacity with massively ill, congested and coughing people. And the only thing that changed from month to month was ever-larger numbers of COVID-19 patients coming through the door.
Some NHS staff themselves perished from Coronavirus because it wasn’t then known that carers needed to be wearing full PPE and receive a full decontamination at the end of each shift — and later in the pandemic — at the end of each DOUBLE shift!
Other NHS staff lost family members to the disease and couldn’t be with their loved ones during their last moments on planet Earth due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
There’s no overestimating the stress that NHS staff worked under during the Coronavirus pandemic: Only soldiers who fought in the trenches of Nazi-occupied Europe during WWII, who watched their friends getting blown to pieces in front of them or cut to ribbons by IED’s every week, living in the freezing cold 24/7, with little food (and only rarely, hot food) or courageously fighting-on with multiple injuries, or who were ‘shell shocked’ (mentally numbed, as if in a trance-like state on account of all they’d seen) could understand how NHS employees have suffered over the past year.
And for all the professionalism NHS employees have displayed, for all the heroism they showed, for all the determination to keep going in the face of almost insurmountable odds… the UK government offered NHS employees… a 1% pay rise?
Wrong touch, Boris! Wrong touch.
It was interpreted by NHS staff as an insult to their core. IMHO, it was a well-meaning but clumsy attempt by an uncomprehending government to reward the hardworking NHS employees who risked their lives to protect Britons at great cost to themselves and their dependents.
Now, keep in mind that the heroic soldiers who returned home from WWI and WWII didn’t get anything more than a tiny bonus (equal to today’s £500) and then they were suddenly and unceremoniously discharged from the military (meaning; they were suddenly unemployed, with no means to provide for themselves or their families in a time of sudden and huge unemployment typical in the aftermath of war) without any government provided options like unemployment insurance, Universal Credit, or any other government helps that are considered basic human rights in the 21st-century.
Pragmatism is the watchword of governments everywhere as governments must do what’s best for their country as a whole — not what’s best for heroic soldiers, not what’s best for heroic healthcare staff, and not what’s best for unhappy citizens caught in a ‘lockdown’ situation — governments must do what’s best for the entire country.
If a country has a ‘good government’… soldiers receive a generous discharge package when they leave the military at the end of a war, and citizens get much understanding and ongoing explanations from the government as to why a civil rights infringing ‘lockdown’ is important so the public aren’t left wondering why such extreme measures are required to protect citizens.
But in the immediate aftermath of WWI and WWII, there were no generous discharge payments because the government claimed that the war impoverished the country and it was therefore unable to afford to take care of the people in its care. (!)
And in our time, the UK government claims its finances are tight and is unable to reward heroic NHS staff with a meaningful pay rise.
And it’s true that taking on more government debt to properly reward NHS employees (and military combat veterans) could bankrupt the country (but only because successive UK governments have run-up obscene levels of national debt on far less important priorities) but if every NHS employee walked off the job in the middle of a pandemic, suddenly, bankruptcy wouldn’t seem so bad now, would it?
Priorities, Boris! Priorities!
Sometimes it Isn’t About the Money
Sometimes, it’s about showing respect. Sometimes, it’s about giving all NHS staff the summer off with full pay.
(More NHS staff would need to be hired, and existing staff would need to be flexible about which 60 consecutive days off they wanted for vacation time. Fair enough!)
Where to get enough temporary staff so that NHS employees who worked the pandemic could take-off for Ibiza (or wherever) to soak up the Sun and swim in the ocean for all of May/June, or all of June/July, or July/August, or August/September?
Why, the UK military, of course!
Yes, careful scheduling of summer holidays between present NHS employees, in addition to the UK military stepping in to temporarily replace NHS staff could ensure that every position remains covered. And former NHS employees could assist by returning to work for 6-months so that fatigued, COVID-weary and traumatized NHS staff could receive 60-days of uninterrupted vacation time to recharge their spirits.
Of course, military personnel temporarily working within the NHS would need to be vaccinated prior to ‘subbing in’ for NHS staff. But that’s no dealbreaker.
My polite suggestion to the UK government is to forget about the stillborn 1% pay rise.
Cancel it and show the NHS some respect, because it isn’t about the money. It’s about showing NHS employees the proper respect and carefully working with the media to showcase the astonishingly dedicated NHS people, and about getting them the summer off with full pay so they can recharge their batteries, and then get them back to work doing what they do best: Which is… saving our lives every day of the year!
Time for a reset, Boris!
I politely urge the Prime Minister to make it Parliament’s mission to show NHS carers that not only the public, but that the government and the media too, deeply appreciate the commitment and sacrifice that each NHS employee demonstrates as they walk their patients to restored health — no matter what illness befalls us.
Written by John Brian Shannon
Image courtesy of: TopDoctors.co.uk