Government is 'exploiting' NHS workers and treating them like 'machines', says open letter to Boris Johnson

·3 min read
Detail is seen on a lanyard of a nurse on a COVID-19 ward at Milton Keynes University Hospital, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Milton Keynes, Britain, January 20, 2021. Picture taken January 20, 2021. REUTERS/Toby Melville
An open letter to Boris Johnson on behalf of NHS workers accused the government of exploiting them. (Stock image: Reuters)

NHS workers have accused Boris Johnson of exploiting them in response to a letter he wrote urging them to help the government reach its COVID booster target.

Following his announcement that all adults in England will be offered a booster jab by the end of the year in a bid to battle the spread of the Omicron variant, the Prime Minister wrote an open letter to NHS staff. 

In it, he said: "I need your help to deliver the fastest, biggest vaccination drive this country has ever seen.

"I know this will not be easy. I know that you are tired and weary."

The letter prompted a response from the group 'NHS Workers Say NO!', which shared its own open letter to the "the whole of the Tory Party", in which it accused the government of exploiting the NHS Workforce.

It said: "Firstly, we would like to ask each and every one of you why, despite our incredible efforts, you continue to exploit us.

"The COVID-19 pandemic placed extraordinary strain on an already demoralised, devalued and depleted workforce, having spent ten years paying for your austerity measures."

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It went on to criticise the government's approach to limiting the spread of the Omicron variant, as well as pointing out that there remain more than 100,000 vacancies in the NHS.

It added: "Working under protected, under resourced and underpaid whilst battling a pandemic has left us exhausted at best. We have witnessed colleagues bear the mental and physical scars, some unable to return to the job they loved, others at worst lost their lives completely."

The letter added: "If it is critical to get Britain boosted, it is critical we have the workforce to deliver that whilst maintaining other services. 

"I can assure you at present we are incapable of doing that safely."

The letter was written by nurse Kirsty Brewerton, from Coventry, on behalf of the group, which is calling for a 15% pay rise to make up for what they describe as real-term cuts to NHS pay. 

She told The Metro: "When I saw the letter, I really wanted to write a reply and I really hope he’s read it.

"Nurses are queuing at food banks and people are leaving because they can’t afford to do this job. That is a fact."

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She said NHS workers would continue to try to meet targets set by the government, but added: "we are not machines".

She told the newspaper: "There is a finite amount of us. The reality of what people are facing now is that people are dying because we haven’t got enough staff, and nothing is being done about it.

"We are just expected to keep going and keep doing more. It’s dangerous."

In November, data from NHS England showed that there were 99,460 vacancies across the NHS as a whole - up from 87,241 from the previous year.

According to the data, the vacancy rate of nurses for England as a whole was 10.5% as of 31 September, up from 10.1% the year before, which equated to 39,813 nursing vacancies in England

The recruitment crisis comes as the NHS has been left facing one of its most difficult winters, with growing numbers of people leaving the NHS as it struggles with record waiting lists and extra pressures due to coronavirus. 

Campaigners say NHS workers are leaving in record numbers due to the stress of battling the pandemic.

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