We have stood on the streets and applauded our front line NHS staff. We have wondered at their resilience in the biggest health crisis of our lifetimes. We have sympathised with them when they have fallen ill and with their families when they have died.
The reward health service workers will get for their efforts is a measly 1% pay rise. Ministers seem not to recognise that those who have worked themselves into exhaustion, taken on extra shifts, faced danger every working day need a boost. With tax allowances frozen, the lowest paid staff and frontline nurses should at least get the 2.1% pay rise they were promised.
In a snap opinion poll in today’s Observer, even 58% of Conservative respondents said they thought the rise was too low, rising to 72% for the full spectrum of voters. Chris Curtis of Opinium Research gives the details on Twitter, including that improving salaries for NHS staff is second only to pumping more money into the NHS and social care system for voters.
I have watched Covid-19 from the frontline. Health workers get sick, sometimes with Covid. Some have had to step back from work at times to look after their children or family members who are isolated or unwell.
There was so much unknown at the beginning. The rate at which the disease spread. In hospitals, there was the lack of PPE. Many medical staff fell ill. Some died.
It has got a lot better. The vaccination programme is steaming ahead and infection rates are falling. But we still have uncertainty over the emergent of new variants of Covid-19.
Health service staff have been under huge pressure for years. But anyone who has been recently treated by GPs and hospital staff knows that they are wonderful people doing their best in the most difficult of circumstances.
NHS staff are so committed they have worked flat out. They have volunteered for extra shifts and been called into to plug gaps in staffing. They have often gone off shift with barely enough time to eat and sleep before returning for the next shift.
The vaccination programme got under a slow start in some areas, including here in south west Shropshire. But the catch up has been brilliant. So much effort by so many professionals and volunteers has led to close to 100 per cent of people over 65 being vaccinated.
Nationally, NHS staff deserve the pay rise they were promised. That was 2.1%. They really deserve more.
Of course, we are short of money as a nation. But the experience of the last year has shown that without the absolute dedication of NHS staff working beyond the call of duty, we cannot tackle an epidemic or any other public health emergency.
That’s why NHS staff deserve the pay rise the government is cruelly denying.
* Tracey Huffer is a Shropshire Lib Dem Councillor. Currently recovering from Covid-19 and she hopes to return to work as an NHS nurse shortly.