'Overlooked' NHS workers protest in Portsmouth over 'appalling' pay
CHANTS of ‘save our NHS’ rang out through the streets of Portsmouth on Saturday as dozens of health workers protested about ‘unfair pay’.
About 80 campaigners took part in the demonstration to demand a pay rise after missing out on a salary boost from the government.
Health workers are due an increase in their salary next April – but staff and unions want the government to show its appreciation for NHS staff by bringing it forward to this year.
Campaigners rallied in Guildhall Square to begin their march, which was organised by healthcare assistant Naomi Singh, from Portsmouth.
Speaking to The News ahead of the protest, the 26-year-old said: ‘We weren’t included in the public sector pay rise and feel like that’s a bitter kick in the teeth.
‘There are 100,000 vacancies at the moment for NHS England and the main reason people leave is because you just don’t get paid enough.
‘It’s not acceptable. We go through so much, we care and do what we do because we care.
‘We feel we have been overlooked and forgotten about.’
The protest began with a two-minute silence at 11.58am to mark all the health workers who died during the coronavirus outbreak.
Carrying plaques and banners, campaigners then marched from Guildhall Square, along Winston Churchill Avenue before heading south down Hampshire Terrace and ending up at Southsea Common.
Among the group was trainee clinical scientist Mark Inch, 25, of Southsea, who works at Queen Alexandra Hospital.
He said: ‘I don’t think NHS workers get paid anywhere near enough. It’s appalling.
‘I have spent time working in a Covid ward, working 12 or 13 hours a day. I had to put myself within touching distance and very much within catching distance of Covid. We deserve better pay.’
Ms Singh added many health workers had made huge sacrifices to treat those infected with coronavirus at the peak of the pandemic.
‘I myself caught the virus and I was very poorly but lucky I got through it because I’m young and healthy,’ she said. ‘I haven’t seen my dad for months because he has got COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
‘But my story is similar to everyone else’s story in the NHS. It’s been hard, we’ve seen people come through the hospital and I’ve held their hand because they were dying and they didn’t have anyone else there because their families couldn’t be there.
‘We just want some recognition from the government about the work we do.
‘Clapping doesn’t pay our bills. It’s already been forgotten about.’
Last month the government announced wage increases for 900,000 public sector workers, including doctors, teachers, police and the armed forces.
But NHS staff were not included in the windfall, sparking an outcry across the UK.
Portsmouth’s protest was one of many taking place nationally over the weekend.