We learned this week that over 100,000 people in this country have died from Covid-19.
I have no doubt that many families would not be grieving if it weren’t for the incompetence and mistakes of Boris Johnson and his Conservative government.
It’s hard to visualise that many lives: it’s more than the population of Watford or Great Yarmouth. It’s more than the number of passengers in 240 Boeing 747s.
It is also hard for many of us to truly appreciate the impact of caring for so many sick people and seeing so many of them die has had on those who work in the NHS.
UNISON members are telling us about the unrelenting intensity of their work – week after week, month after month, and there is still no end in sight.
Witnessing the sheer scale of death has led to many experiencing panic attacks and PTSD symptoms. They feel guilty that they are prevented from delivering the quality of care that they want to. They feel anxious that they will catch Covid themselves or bring it home to their loved ones.
One of our members, Patricia, a healthcare assistant who had Covid this winter, told us: “I remember hearing one patient telling his brother over FaceTime he wouldn’t make it. I’m not an emotional person but I was crying at work after hearing that.
“It’s scarred me – I’ve been unable to sleep. I feel for the doctors having to decide which patients get a ventilator … I wouldn’t wish what I’ve been through on my worst enemy.”
The government can’t turn back the clock. Nor can it do anything to make the next shifts worked by nurses, healthcare assistants, domestics, ward clerks, mortuary assistants, porters, paramedics and other ambulance staff across the East of England less tough.
However it can act now to boost morale. It can show just how grateful it is for all the hard work and personal sacrifice.
It can deliver an early and significant wage increase – of at least £2,000 – to show NHS staff they are truly valued.
This would make a real difference to their lives – make it less likely that some of them will leave the jobs that we all need them to do.
UNISON is clear: the government must agree funding for a significant pay rise now.
UNISON members have been using social media to highlight why they think the pay rise is essential. If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to contact your MP and get involved in the campaign.