Dec 21st, 2022
‘We’ve got your back’: Our message to NHS workers on the picket line
By Matthew McGregor
“Yes, I might suffer because of your industrial action, but I blame the Government, not you.”
That’s a message from 38 Degrees supporter Terence – just one of the thousands of messages we’re sending to striking NHS workers, letting them know that we, as patients and the public, have got their backs as they fight for the future of our health service.
At 38 Degrees, we know that the last thing our dedicated NHS workers want to be doing is striking. But working in a service in crisis, they have been faced with little choice.
After years of government underfunding, A&E waiting times have soared, cancer treatment queues have doubled and seven million of us are on waiting lists. Meanwhile, undervalued, underpaid NHS staff are leaving in droves, or turning to foodbanks to feed themselves and their families.
Yet instead of sitting down to negotiate and make things better for these vital workers, in the weeks leading up to the strike, we saw Government ministers demonising them for making this tough decision, and trying to pit patients against them. So as they walked out onto the picket lines, we wanted our NHS workers to know how many of us, the British public, are standing with them. We know that we all need better care for our NHS so we can have better care from our NHS.
So 38 Degrees launched a message of support, letting striking workers know that we value the sacrifices they make, day in, day out, looking after all of us, and telling them that we believe this vital work deserves fair pay.
In the space of days, more than 66,000 people added their names, with thousands of them adding their own personal messages of support for the strikers. Many shared their experiences as NHS patients – with plenty saying they backed the industrial action even though they would be directly affected. The messages of support were so compelling, we even saw journalists share words from our supporters in some of their coverage.
Thousands of us shared the message of support on our own social media accounts, letting NHS workers we know personally know we have their backs. But we wanted to do something more, to make our statement as loud as possible. So this week, we moved quickly to make this happen. Since Monday, 1,141 38 Degrees supporters have chipped in small donations – an average of just £6.74 – to buy advertising space on online newspaper sites. Over this week, during three days of strikes from nurses and ambulance workers, these ads will run on 30+ local media sites, including Manchester Evening News, Liverpool Echo, Birmingham Mail and Bristol Post. We hope they give even a small boost to NHS workers at this time, and let them know how much we are behind them.
We’ll be sharing our letter, along with the heartfelt personal messages, with all the unions involved in industrial action, so they can let their members know just how many people are behind them in their fight.
Here are just a few of the moving messages we received:
- Allan Scott, from Suffolk: “In August this year I was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Ever since, my life – what’s left of it – has effectively been in the hands of the wonderful staff at West Suffolk Hospital. My care has been exemplary – but I have seen for myself the hugely challenging conditions in which they work. I’ve told my nurses that I completely support their decision to strike – it seems to be the only way to get the attention of our apology for a government. And they have told me that my care will continue – strike or no strike – because my life depends on it. I think their lives – and the future of the NHS – now depend on getting an acceptable settlement. And if I have to pay higher taxes for them to get it, then bring it on.”
- Edward Perry, from Wallasey in Wirral: “I am on the waiting lists for surgery but will support you all. Your actions are long overdue!”
- Ruth Kent, from Central Devon: “This government woefully undervalues and undermines the NHS and its nurses. I fully support your strike even though it will affect me. Please don’t give up pushing for the pay you deserve.”
- Joel Kosminsky, from Hackney South and Shoreditch: “I’m in cancer recovery (successful operation during Covid!) so I and many many others know what you’re doing, what you’re going through, and want you to stay doing that by choice, which means decent pay, conditions, good hospitals and plenty more staff!”
- Lynne Walmsle, from Central Devon: “NHS staff have put their lives on the line in the recent pandemic – they saved my brother-in-law’s life when he caught covid. You deserve the country’s support because you do your very hard job with courage and fortitude. You should receive a salary to match this and I sympathise with your strike action – I would do the same myself in your position.”
- Michael O’Neill, from Saffron Walden: “My wife and my two daughters would not be alive today were it not for NHS staff. My eldest daughter is now a student nurse who testifies to the dedicated, educated, stressful work, long hours and grossly underpaid work undertaken by nurses. How can we stand in the street and clap the NHS whilst underpaying NHS staff?”
- Elaine Burrows, from Bury South: “I’m 69 years old with an underlying health condition which is likely to need hospital treatment in the future. I’m really scared that the NHS will not be there for me as it has been in the past. I fully support the striking workers who deserve fair pay for their hard work.”
- Elizabeth Keetley, from Gedling in Nottinghamshire: “Over the last 13 months, NHS doctors, nurses, radiotherapists and all the people associated with cancer care, face to face or behind the scenes, have saved my life, and are working to ensure my cancer doesn’t return. I thank God for every one of you. Your care, compassion and professionalism is absolute. You give above and beyond the call of duty. I wish you every success in your fight for better pay and working conditions.”
- Terence Roberts, from Wirral West: “We need you, but we don’t need a Government who have underfunded our public services for 12 years. Yes, I might suffer because of your industrial action, but I blame the Government, not you.”
And there’s still time to add your name if you haven’t done so yet. Add your name to the letter here: https://act.38degrees.org.uk/act/ps-nhs-strikes-letter-1222