Fighting for the rights of NHS workers has never been more important

NHS and ambulance - 19 Nov 2020

NHS Nurse and GMB Rep Holly Turner writes on the importance of the campaign for a proper pay rise for NHS workers and how the #NHSPay15 campaign was born

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We all know that the NHS and its workforce are struggling, and struggling in 2020 like never before.

We currently have 100,000 vacancies predicted to rise to 250,000 by 2030; can you begin to imagine what that will look like? How that will feel for the remaining workers, how that will impact on the care we are able to deliver?

It is simply unimaginable to me, which is why I decided to get active, organise and try to do something about it.

My name is Holly, I am a GMB Rep and a Learning Disability Nurse, a branch of Nursing which I am SO proud to be part of.

It was a no brainer for me to step into the role of becoming a GMB Rep and a title I am so proud to have.

Tackling inequality, encouraging accessibility and promoting inclusion is at the very heart of everything I do.

I currently lead a Learning Disability pathway within a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) but have worked in various settings throughout my career with both adults and children.

Throughout my work I have witnessed unimaginable levels of deprivation within our communities, and advocated for individuals and their families. Many of whom are struggling to navigate public services that have been stripped back to the bone by this Government – their imposed austerity and the cruelty that has been dealt to the most vulnerable within our society.

I have watched people attempting to heat their homes with a gas hob when their benefits have been sanctioned and their power cut off.

I have comforted families who have been denied support and have literally become prisoners in their own homes, and I have supported colleagues when at times, it can all feel just a little unbearable. For services already running on the thinnest wire, this year has been the ultimate challenge.

We are used to dealing with chronic understaffing.

A decade ago I can remember finishing 12 hour shifts and finding there was no Night Nurse to take over and being required to stay all night for literally having no one to hand the unit keys to.

But of course, new challenges were faced this year which have stretched workers to the limit. Workers who have had to be separated from their families, who in desperation have had to source their own PPE from eBay and who in July were offered the ultimate slap in the face when we were excluded from the public sector pay rise.

After we were excluded from the public sector pay rise a group of us nurses decided to make a stand. We made a Facebook group, initially called ‘Protest for NHS Pay’, now NHS Workers Say NO! and within a week was up to almost 80,000 members.

This group is like no nursing/healthcare group I have been part of before.

There is a harder political edge, with people demanding answers; why do we as NHS workers find ourselves here, how on EARTH did we end up here, and what do we need to do to change things?

We polled the members of our group asking what collectively, our demands should be.

With regards to pay, 15% was agreed to be the least we are owed, and #NHSPay15 was born.

The group initially intended to hold a demo in London, but rapidly workers all over the UK wanted to get involved and due to restrictions on travel the decision was made to hold collective action on 8th August.

Demonstrations were held in over 40 towns and cities across the UK and our national network of organisers was formed.

(Photo credit: Denise Laura Baker Photography)

Allies have been founded with other organisations working to tackle inequality, friendships have been created, union engagement has increased and power is being built within the workplaces.

This is an incredible movement, and shows no sign of slowing down. I am sure that all the organisers would agree that this has been a steep learning curve.

We are healthcare workers and suddenly we are hosting national zoom meetings, creating graphics for demonstrations and being asked to speak at various events across the country. All of this of course, alongside working in full time clinical roles in a pandemic isn’t easy.

For me, the biggest champions standing shoulder to shoulder with the #NHSPay15 movement has been GMB.

Sign the petition for a proper pay rise for NHS workers

We have met a lot of resistance from union’s along the way, we have been challenged by senior members and I was even told I should ‘get in line’. But GMB have stood firmly on the side of the workers.

GMB have adopted the 15% pay ask (or £2 per hour whichever is greater) and have made this their official pay campaign. It was a no brainer for me to step into the role of becoming a GMB Rep and a title I am so proud to have.

Fighting for the rights of workers has NEVER been more important than right now, and they inspire me to believe that we can achieve this pay rise.

Get involved in the #NHSPay15 campaign

Holly Turner
NHS Nurse and GMB Rep

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