A petition for NHS staff to be paid more has just been debated by MPs, but some people are frustrated over how few were able to take part in the discussions.
It shouldn’t have taken a pandemic to show how much we owe our national health service. But, since the start of the coronavirus outbreak in the UK, it’s become undeniably clear that so much more needs to be done to support the NHS. Staff didn’t have adequate PPE, we saw the viral videos of just how much strain they have been under and the care home crisis was completely devastating.
We stayed indoors. We took to our doorsteps and clapped every Thursday for 10 weeks. We donated money, wore T-shirts and shared messages of thanks. And 160,000 of us signed a petition calling for the government to increase pay for NHS workers and recognise them more.
That petition was debated in parliament earlier this week, on Thursday 25 June. But there has been a frustrated response on Twitter over how many MPs took part in the debate.
Yvonne Coghill, the director of workforce race equality at NHS London, tweeted: “It isn’t a shame, it’s a disgrace. Our nurses are the most trusted and best loved profession in the country. They have stepped up and put their lives and the lives of their families on the line during this pandemic and those people can’t even be bothered to show up […] awful.”
Dr Karen Marshall, a respiratory nurse consultant, added: “I’d like to think that they think there is no need for a debate, it’s a done deal, so why waste their time. I’d be wrong of course.”
And a nurse on Twitter wrote: “The NHS paid to train me, and I’ve served it loyally and to the best of my ability for eleven years. Now I’m going to do my level best to move to New Zealand where I might actually be appreciated for my skills.”
Although petition debates are, arguably, usually sparsely attended, and the Commons Chamber is currently limited to 50 MPs at most, it’s perhaps disappointing that key figures – including secretary of state for health and social care Matt Hancock – weren’t present.
However, the Petitions Committee has since said that, due to social distancing, only MPs taking part in debates are encouraged to be in the Chamber. “More than 30 MPs spoke in this important debate scheduled by the Petitions Committee,” it explained in a tweet. “In the end, not every MP who wanted to speak was actually able to. It is likely that more MPs would attended simply to show their support, had that been allowed.”
During the debate, Labour MP for Pontypridd Alex Davies-Jones, said: “The coronavirus pandemic provides a unique opportunity to try and show our thanks and appreciation. Call me old fashioned but I’m not sure a hand clap or a medal quite cuts it.”
Conservative health minister Helen Whately said the debate should “not just about pay” but should seek to increase the number of doctors and nurses in the NHS.
Following the debate, Anthony Johnson, Registered Nurse and Lead Organiser for Nurses United told Nursing Notes: “The British public stand behind our nurses. It’s a shame that [fewer] than 20 MPs could be bothered to show their support for NHS staff on the frontlines.
“Actions speak louder than claps. We and the public will remember this.”