150,000 sign petition demanding pay rise for NHS staff

LFF speaks to healthcare assistant Shane Longton (pictured holding the word 'You') - whose petition has caught the public mood.

Over 150,000 people have now signed a petition calling for a pay rise for NHS staff.

Healthcare assistant Shane Longton, 36, started the petition at the end of February – after posting a Facebook post that went viral – listing pressures faced by healthcare assistants. The post was shared over 20,000 times.

The post said: “Most days we are understaffed and we carry on and don’t complain. Our job is hard. Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we’re reduced to tears. We go home to our family and loved ones physically and mentally drained, then we get up and do it all over again. We do all this for minimum wage.

“We know we deserve so much more, but we still do it anyway. Because we are healthcare workers, and we genuinely do care! so please don’t call us unskilled or say “your just a carer!”

It followed huge anger of the government terming workers like him ‘low-skilled’ in official immigration guidance. Healthcare assistants often receive little more than the minimum wage for their work.

Mr Longton told LFF: “The petition took off – it went slowly towards 10,000 mark” and then surged when high-profile celebrities and politicians began sharing it.

“Articles like [on] Left Foot Forward have sparked more anger. It makes my blood boil…[Tory MPs] all came out and clapped. I just turn it over, I can’t watch it. It’s just an insult. Lot of work colleagues feel the same.” Longton works in a Lancashire hospital, with Covid patients on site.

The next step is securing a Parliamentary debate: “I’m contacting as many MPs as I can…we’re risking our lives.”

Mr Longton has written a letter to the PM calling for a pay rise for NHS staff. But he backs a pay rise for all frontline workers: “Everyone on the frontline should be getting a pay rise. Workers need to speak to unions and demand this – they deserve this.” If not? “Striking is another option.”

Mr Longton has worked in the NHS for two and half years, giving personal care to those who’ve suffered from falls, strokes, heart attacks and more.

“We’re very lucky to have supportive management. We have a wobble room to process emotions.” But the pressure is intense: “You get a little knot in your stomach.”

There were rumours earlier this month that public sector workers could face a pay freeze to pay for the cost of the government’s coronavirus response.

Mr Longton suggested it was hypocritical for Ministers to clap for carers each Thursday while mooting a real-terms pay cut for frontline workers.

Is he hopeful? “There’s something different this time: the UK is uniting. People have got more of an insight into the world of the NHS. The government need to be careful what they’re doing – there’s so much appreciation for the NHS,” he tells LFF.  

The petition is available here.

Josiah Mortimer is co-editor of Left Foot Forward.

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