Hello Again Mr Johnson
Dear Mr Johnson,
You may remember my previous letter and the book I sent you Blue Girl: Nursing Beyond the Ward, which I wrote so that the work of nurses could be understood and appreciated. And by appreciated I mean with more than applause. Since February, when I last wrote to you about the workload of nurses, mental health concerns for NHS staff, poor working conditions, faulty equipment, and offensive pay, our situation has become dire. Nurses and HCAs are continuing to battle the same issues as before but have since worked relentlessly through this pandemic. And they are burning out. Since your time in ICU I expect you now know better than some how tough their job is in the most trying of times. And yet rather than reward us, you have kicked us in the teeth. We are furious that your government has denied us a pay rise and we won't let this rest. Protests are only gaining momentum across the country as increasing numbers of nurses are thinking of leaving the profession they love. You haven't responded to my first letter so let me lay it out for you. Again.
Since March, nurses have worked harder than ever but remain completely undervalued by your government. A recent survey of 42,000 nurses by the RCN revealed that 36% of nurses were considering leaving the profession, an increase from 27% last year. Another study by Holliblu found this figure to be a staggering 68%. Holliblu's study also found that 50% of nurses feel worried about going to work and are showing signs of anxiety and stress. When asked to score their mental health out of 100, the average score was an extremely alarming 36. With the UK having the second highest death rate among nurses from Covid, it's no wonder anxiety levels are high. 650 health care staff have lost their lives in this fight. And many are holding your government responsible. David Carr, a critical care nurse at St Thomas' hospital where you were treated, told Sky News: ‘I'm not a warrior, I'm not a soldier, I don't come to work expecting to die’. You seem to have no grasp on the work nurses do. I was in disbelief when Matt Hancock announced that this year it was going to be possible for nurses to administer the flu vaccine. We have been running these clinics for decades! It is frightening to me that your Health Secretary seems to know so little about how the NHS is actually functioning.
So what would make us feel valued? Unsurprisingly 73% reported that decent pay is a must. 45% are asking for safer working conditions and 43% would like adequate equipment and supplies. All issues I have previously written to you about and ones that are entirely reasonable to expect in order to carry out our jobs safely. During the pandemic a third of nurses have had to work at a higher level than before and guess what? They haven't had a pay increase for the extra responsibility. With a nursing shortage of 40,000 and a possible decrease in nurses joining from overseas due to current travel restrictions you absolutely must do everything in your power to keep the nurses who are giving their all on a daily basis. Morale is at an all-time low. I've said this before and I'll say it again-the suicide rate among female nurses is 23% higher than the national female average. Just let that sink in.
I recently spoke at a protest as part of the #NHSPay15 movement organised by EssexNHS15 and read out my original letter to you. My local Labour politician Aston Line also spoke and during his superb speech he said that 'For far too long now the Conservatives have relied on the altruism of nurses, paramedics, porters, health care assistants, biomedical scientists and other NHS workers'. He moved the crowd when he said 'I refuse to be content in a world where a full-time working nurse has to rely on food banks to feed their family. None of us should think this is ok.' I ask you Prime Minister, do you? These issues are too crucial to be on the back burner. The time has come for you to back your nurses.