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UK health strike leaves nurses ‘burned out’

Status: 12/19/2022 4:14 am

Great Britain is experiencing its worst wave of strikes in decades. For the first time, tens of thousands of nurses are also walking out of hospitals across the country. They want higher wages and better working conditions.

By Imke Köhler, ARD Studio London

Instead of being on the ward, they’re on the street: In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, nurses are on strike these days. It was their biggest strike since the NHS began.

Imke Kohler
ART Studio London

The frustration is palpable: “Nothing has changed,” says the striking nurse, fighting back tears. “Everything is getting tighter. We expect to put it aside and we’ll find more reserves, but that’s enough for now.”

There is a shortage of nearly 47,000 nurses in England alone. Matt Treacy, from the English Midlands, a member of this professional group, describes the situation: “Wards need a minimum number of nurses. But there aren’t. Instead, the work is being shared. Some of those who are there are burnt out.”

Real wage levels have fallen significantly

In addition to working conditions, it is about money. Matt agrees to take out the loan at the end of the month. Pamela, a mother of two from a blackboard in Nottingham, struggles with high living and energy costs: “As a nurse you can buy groceries,” she says. She sees going to the table as a stigma.

For nursing staff, real wages have fallen an average of eight percent since 2010, and in some cases as much as 20 percent, the union says. Now a balance has to be found above the rate of inflation: Nursing staff are demanding a 19 per cent pay rise, but the government deems it unaffordable and offers four to five per cent. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has called on the union to call off the strikes, but the victims want their voices heard.

The government wants to minimize the effects of strikes involving soldiers

The British government wants to use 1,200 soldiers to replace striking staff at border controls and ambulances. At the same time, he resisted the wage demands of unions demanding inflationary compensation. “It would be irresponsible to allow public sector wages and inflation to spiral out of control,” Cabinet Secretary Oliver Dowden told the BBC. Trade unions’ demands are barred.

The unions assured their members that even during the strike, they would be available for emergencies. “We have promised that our members will leave the picket line and board the ambulances if there are emergencies that require attention,” union president Onai Kassab said.

There is not much space in the clinics

The UK health system is broken. More than seven million Britons are currently waiting for treatment or surgery, many of them for months. Even in emergencies, there is often no quick help.

Due to the lack of care facilities, many are staying in hospital for long periods of time, occupying beds that are urgently needed by others. Long queues form in front of emergency rooms, and patients sometimes have to wait for hours for an ambulance.

Wait for hours for an ambulance

This has serious consequences for other emergencies: paramedic Glenn Carrington, for example, has to routinely ignore emergency calls because his ambulance isn’t available: “Sometimes people who dial an emergency call have to wait six or seven hours. We’ve seen it. People die before we get there, and they’re still there. If alive, we will take them to the hospital,” he informs. “And then we’re out there waiting and waiting and waiting.”

Glenn thinks the British healthcare system will collapse in the near future. Medical workers also plan to go on strike this week. That was her way of making an emergency call.