The Big Conservative Con: hypocrisy over NHS – Liberal Article
The NHS is one of our country’s greatest achievements. This is something which I hope we can all agree on to a certain extent, wherever you sit on the political spectrum. Never before has it been tested and strained as much as it has in the last few months, but it has proven its worth.
Of course, the NHS has its issues. I am not naïve enough to believe it is anywhere close to a perfect healthcare system. But I would much rather face the current pandemic in a country with a healthcare system such as ours rather than in the United States.
During the coronavirus pandemic, most people are working at home or have lost their jobs or been furloughed. NHS staff, on the other hand, have been putting themselves in harm’s way. Despite all the safety measures and PPE in place, the fact of the matter is that hospital and care home staff are at a much higher risk than the average person. We don’t know the exact number, but over 300 NHS and care workers have died from Covid-19 in England. As António Guterres (UN Secretary General) said in April, the coronavirus pandemic is the biggest global challenge since the Second World War. In that case, it is healthcare workers like NHS staff who are the ones fighting in the trenches.
Many people in this country have experienced first-hand the NHS’ work with combating coronavirus. I myself have been tested twice (and given the all-clear) at the NHS testing centre in Exeter. I have friends whose parents have been hospitalised due to it and looked after and nursed back to health by NHS staff. The Prime Minister spent a week in an NHS hospital battling for his life against the virus, and publicly stated that “The NHS has saved my life, no question”.
And so, one would assume (and hope) that the British government would look after the heroes of the pandemic. Indeed, the Tory party line has been stressing the importance of protecting the NHS from the start of lockdown. Downing Street has been very keen to share photos of children’s rainbow drawings for the NHS in the windows of no.10. The PM has led the clap for the NHS every Thursday. On the Service’s 72nd birthday earlier this month, Downing Street was lit up blue in support.
But what has been done to thank the NHS staff, those to whom our Prime Minister owes his life? The government’s treatment of the NHS during the pandemic has been shameful.
Harking back to the peak of the pandemic in April, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “now is not the time to discuss a pay raise for nurses”. I can’t see a much better time than the crisis we are currently in to show our gratitude to those risking their lives to try and flatten the curve. As nice and thoughtful a gesture clapping for the NHS is, it doesn’t do a whole lot of good for those nurses and doctors. More recently, a petition calling for an increase in NHS worker pay that received over 160,000 signatures was debated but resulted in no action being taken by the House of Commons. Why, when 78% of the British population support increasing NHS staff salaries, has the government not supported our most crucial key workers?
The hypocrisy of the Government doesn’t end there. Student nurses who were asked to finish their training early and join the frontline were told that their contracts were ending earlier than expected, before the government was forced to make a U-turn.
Furthermore, free parking for NHS staff, which was made brought in during the pandemic, is set to end soon. NHS staff shouldn’t have to pay for parking in the first place and forcing them to pay to come into work and risk their lives to protect others is absurd. How is that protecting the NHS?
In the last few days, the government have yet again demonstrated their hypocrisy by excluding social care workers from the new NHS visa that is being introduced as part of the post-Brexit points-based immigration system. It also means that many NHS cleaners, porters, and support staff won’t be able to benefit from it. The NHS visa is a necessary and welcomed proposal that acknowledges the dedication and hard work of many NHS staff who are immigrants. It seems even more baffling, therefore, that the government are leaving out a large proportion of these staff. Without immigrants, our healthcare system would be much, much worse off.
The Conservatives have failed to acknowledge the important role played by immigrant social care workers and support staff not just in fighting the pandemic, but also in helping keep the NHS running.
The government’s record with NHS staff during the pandemic has, like I said, been shameful. Calling for the nation to support our health system in press briefings whilst failing to support it through policy is something the government must be held to account for. It has been one of this government’s biggest and most blatant disasters.
Written by Guest Liberal Writer, Fergus Harris
Point of Information
The criticism is apt, but maybe it’s not only the Government that’s to blame? – a Conservative Response
The headline of this article has certainly ruffled my feathers, but I had to agree at times. Whilst most of us were tucked away in the safety of our homes, NHS workers put their health on the line. I also found clapping to be a hollow, exaggerated gesture. It made much noise, that we forgot about the government’s failings.
The free parking will be available for eligible workers and visitors from January 2021, as per the Conservative manifesto. Hospitals could already enact this scheme. Should we be really blaming the government when it is hospitals that could take a step towards change?
Regarding the pay rises for the nurses, the Government is not responsible for setting the salaries for NHS staff. Sure, the government can offer tax breaks for key workers, but they can’t do much more. We also need to take into consideration that our NHS is a public service. Private companies can raise pay for their workers without an extra thought – they are making a profit; whereas NHS is a public entity, so there isn’t much wiggle room.
The U-turn regarding the students is not as bad as it is presented, particularly by the left-wing news outlet quoted as a source – The Guardian. The students had a choice to opt into this paid placement, and they were also made aware of when this arrangement would end. On top of this, students who still had hours to complete would get paid until September. So, the only students who may have suffered a loss of income would be those who have completed their qualifications. I do not believe that this is an unfair arrangement.
Lastly, I understand the anger and fear regarding the NHS workers from other countries who may not qualify for an NHS visa. But we need to ask ourselves a question – do we not value our own, domestic workers? We are facing a recession; unemployment is soaring. Shouldn’t we focus primarily on our own, British working class? How can we support foreign workers if we neglect our own?
Written by Guest Conservative Writer, Dinah Kolka
Yet another mistake of Johnson’s government – a Labour Response
There is little I do not agree with, in Fergus’ article.
All NHS workers deserve the utmost respect – this is indisputable. I, too, have witnessed first-hand their tremendous work through the pandemic.
However, I was initially rather sceptical about the NHS clap, what good would come of it in the long-term? Now, with the fear of saying ‘I told you so’, no good has come of it. Fergus is right.
The NHS is inarguably an incredibly valued service. One that needs to be protected. The government have iterated this so often in previous months. But, did they ever intend on acting on this legislatively? I think not.
Fergus correctly hints to the government only extending protection where it reflects positively on themselves. They were profoundly quick to extend support to key workers through effortless gestures. And even quicker to turn their heads where an opportunity for legislative change presents itself.
Why? Well, the former is of course much easier to achieve, with little chance of upsetting anyone. No one can feasibly argue against a child’s drawing of a rainbow.
It is simple – NHS staff deserve not to lose sleep over potential parking tickets. And, after all they have done, a pay rise should at least be given an ounce consideration. If now is not the time, when?
The government’s treatment of NHS staff can be added to the long list of mistakes made through the pandemic. Don’t agree? Just click on one of the links in Fergus’ article.
Written by Junior Labour Writer, Abi Clargo