Image © Althia Barnett

I was a NHS patient during the nurse strikes. Here’s why I support them.

The nurses strikes that started all over the UK in late 2022 have been the largest in British history, involving tens of thousands of workers. The walkouts are over complaints about pay and working conditions, both of which medical staff say have worsened significantly recently thanks to the Covid pandemic and inflation.

I have been a NHS patient during the strikes, and I am fully in support of them. The government needs to meet the demand of nurses as it is a crucial job that requires total dedication. To be a nurse, one needs to be attentive, caring, sociable and have the relevant education and a passion towards caring for the sick and the elderly. The attributes of a nurse include empathy and some broad experience in the art of care. All these things mean they deserve to be compensated better than they currently are. I also believe that nurses have the right to take industrial action. The ongoing strike action is coupled with low morale and staff shortages in the industry - things that I think could impact patient care much more than time-limited strikes. 

Recently nurses staged a strike at the gates of my local Heartlands Hospital (there were also strike action in other parts of England) while I was receiving treatment there. A practising nurse named ‘Peaches’ whom I spoke to told me, "I was with an agency before, then I decided to join the NHS. I would rather work with agencies because it's not as stressful as being a staff member of the NHS, because the workload is heavy as you have to be doing so much due to staff shortages." 

Peaches added that she does not have enough time to take care of her patients the way she would love to as nurses also do not have the correct equipment to enable them to do their work properly. 

Another care worker, ‘Janice', whom I spoke to on my way out of the hospital and who also works for an agency, said that "there's too much to do in the NHS and the pay is very low, and I earned more working for the agency, that is why I decided to go back to resume working for them. I would have stayed with the NHS if the working conditions were better." 

The NHS is one of Britain's most important institutions and is recognised by many to be on the verge of collapsing. It is a shame such a considerable number of nurses in UK hospitals prefer to work with agencies, which I believe it is due to government failings. RCN general secretary, Pat Cullen, agrees with me. “I don't think they're doing enough for our precious nurses, doctors and the NHS,” he has lamented.

"It is with a heavy heart that nursing staff are striking this week and again in three weeks. Rather than negotiating with the nurses, [UK Prime Minister] Rishi Sunak has chosen strike action. We're doing this in a desperate bid to get him and ministers to rescue the NHS. The only credible solution is to address the tens of thousands of unfilled jobs, also patient care is being compromised  like never before."

The government had pledged to put more money into the NHS. However, it seems to me that it did not commit itself to its promises and is failing to do enough.

When the strikes were first announced, Health Secretary Steve Barclay said he was "saddened" by the news, adding  "The RCN is demanding a massive pay rise that is simply neither reasonable nor affordable. Huge settlements like these would turbocharge inflation when we are endeavouring to keep it under control." The government has since agreed to open pay talks with the nursing union. 

In my opinion nurses are very essential to our care and should be paid well. I believe that nurses should be well paid so as to prevent the unfortunate situation whereby nurses are resorting to strike action. Also nurses and doctors should have the best equipment so that they can be able to do their jobs properly and take care of hospital patients in the right and proper way. I have been accessing the services of the NHS for many years and I can testify that if it was not for the caring and passionate nature of many nurses and doctors who have been attending to my health and wellbeing needs, I don't think I would be alive today. 

Image © Althia Barnett

About the author

My name is Althia Loraine Barnett, and I Live in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham with my husband Anthony. I was born in Jamaica, I am a wife, mother and grandmother, I love to cook, bake and also try my hand at craftwork. I came to live in the UK 19 years ago. I worked as a dinner lady cleaner, care worker, and school bus guide with  Birmingham City Council. I was schooled in Jamaica, I didn’t finish high school so I developed my education by reading and practicing writing  from other educational sources.

I came into journalism by attending a Media Lab meeting with a friend and it started from there. My writing style is around migrant-related stories, current affairs and opinion pieces. My new found love in journalism is to see myself writing articles for well established news corporations.

My ambition is to write articles that will attract the most advanced organisations who might be looking for new and exciting writers with different writing styles. My belief is we should always look out for each other, as this world was created in the image of  the rainbow, we come in different colours, shapes and sizes if we mix them together what a wonderful world this would be to live in.

This article is part of our Voices of the Economy series. The project brings together the economic experiences and opinions of people from a range of different backgrounds and showcases voices which are not heard as often when we talk about the economy. To find out more and share your own story click here.

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