'Angry' healthcare workers demand better pay during Portsmouth protest

‘ANGRY’ healthcare workers and their supporters marched through Portsmouth this weekend as part of a nationwide protest to improve pay for NHS staff.

By Fiona Callingham
Monday, 5th July 2021, 4:55 am
Updated Monday, 5th July 2021, 4:16 pm

Campaigners made their voices heard through the south of the city as they walked from Albert Road to Castle Field to chants of ‘the NHS is here to stay,’ ahead of the service’s 73rd birthday today.

Their demands included a 15 per cent pay rise for staff, no further cuts and an end to privatisation of the NHS.

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Among them was 26-year-old trainee clinical scientist at Queen Alexandra Hospital, Mark Inch.

Mark, who lives in Portsmouth, was redeployed from his six year training course as a nurse’s assistant during the pandemic, among other roles. This triggered his first ever experience with anxiety, which meant he needed time off.

‘It’s quite clear that NHS staff just aren’t paid enough,’ he said.

‘We know that and the one per cent offered doesn’t even cover inflation. On top of this I think it was horrendous during the pandemic, especially the second lockdown. The government doesn’t treat NHS staff as it should.’

Crowds outside of the King's Theatre on Albert Road demonstrate in support of the NHS. Picture: Mike Cooter (030721)

Mental health nurse Laura, from Fareham, also attended the march.

The 27-year-old’s studies were cut short due to the pandemic and she finished her qualification by working on the frontline.

She said: ‘It was a baptism of fire. Due to the pandemic our usual face-to-face visits stopped so we had to work in a very different way but at the same time more people than ever were suffering with mental health issues - especially younger people who could no longer go to school or college.

‘I am really angry about the fact they haven’t even said about a real pay rise, we’re just not paid enough for the work we do.’

Trainee clinical scientist at QA Hospital, March Inch, pictured on Southsea Common during the NHS pay protest on July 3, 2021.

Different unions and campaign groups came together in solidarity at the march.

One of its organisers and trade union Unite member, Veronika Wagner - who is a mental health doctor in the area - explained why it was necessary.

‘Also it’s about patient safety and recruiting more staff,’ she said.

‘Even before the pandemic we were about 100,000 staff members short, which is about 10,000 doctors and 40,000 nurses. And around 1,000 staff died of Covid, with 100,000 suffering from long Covid.

‘Of course this puts our patients at risk and we’ve already seen unprecedented numbers on hospital waiting lists - with five million waiting for treatment across the country.’

Former nurse of 25 years Barbara Wild, who attended as a member of the Solent Women Against State Pension Inequality, was concerned for the future of the NHS.

The 66-year-old from Cosham said: ‘The NHS I used to work for doesn’t exist anymore, it’s very concerning.

‘One of my main worries is that we’re losing so many nurses with experience and they’re not recruiting enough people to replace them.’

10-year-old Etta Toghill from Southsea was there with her mum and younger siblings. Her grandmother recently underwent surgery through the NHS.

‘My grandma was in hospital for three weeks,’ she said. ‘The NHS helped her get better.

‘We want the staff to be paid more.’

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