Yesterday I attended a march in London. The reasons for the march were all under the banner of ‘austerity’, cuts to various budgets affecting the welfare state in some way or another or changes to working conditions, impositions placed on whole sections of articulate, educated and caring professions – teachers are threatening to strike due to the imposition of academy status on schools, student nurses are staging walk-outs because of the cuts to their student bursaries, junior doctors are about to stage a full walk-out in a few days’ time because of proposed changes to their contracts. Many more groups representing a range of social and funding issues attended the march too, all of them worthwhile.
The NHS was well represented demonstrated by the garb of scrubs, uniforms and paraphernalia denoting NHS workers. For me it was a day of highs and lows.
As I marched alongside friends and family, I felt overwhelmed by the amount of support around me for our NHS. A lady thanked me for all I did as a nurse – her two daughters had received transplants in the past and, without the NHS she said, they would have died. She gave me her megaphone, encouraging me to shout out for our service – I did, with pride. I shouted for my colleagues – for those who couldn’t attend, those who have cried to me from weariness and desolation caused by the current state of our NHS, for those who have left nursing because of the unbearable sadness they felt for a declining NHS; I shouted for my patients – those whose hands I have held, whose tears I have wiped, whose sadnesses I have tried to hug away.
And I shouted at Jeremy Hunt. I shouted at him because I wanted answers: why are you so intent upon making nurses feel like they are unworthy of their jobs? Why are you so intent upon ensuring that future nurses are unable to embark on their training? Why are you so intent upon robbing our NHS of vital resourcing and staffing? Why are you throttling our NHS? Why do you hate us?
Today, in the cold light of day, I reflect upon why I need to speak out, and how these questions make me feel: I feel bullied and abused for being a nurse because the boss at the top of the tree, Mr Hunt, does not value me or my work: I get no positive reinforcement from his plans to remove the student nurse bursaries; I get no pat on the back from his new, proposed junior doctor contract; I get no ‘well done’ from his derisory 1% pay cap. Like lots of nurses I think, I feel isolated.
That is why I marched. I needed to remind myself why shouting out is important and yesterday reminded me that I am not alone. I am a part of the NHS family; yesterday we marched together, we shouted together, we were angry together, and we chanted together. As I listened to the impassioned speeches, especially those of my NHS colleagues, I almost cried; I felt such passionate resolve to give something back to the institution that I have seen help so many people in so many ways, to the institution that has supported me to become a better practitioner and person, and to the institution that has also saved the life of my son. The NHS represents a core of compassion that runs throughout our country that we cannot afford to lose.
Marching yesterday reinforced my belief in my NHS; shouting for it made me feel like I was giving it breath. The fight will continue and yesterday reminded me of that.
It will need every ounce of our energy if the NHS is to be saved.
Please march. Please shout. Please save our NHS.