On the Picket Lines of the British National Health Service’s Destroyed

On the Picket Lines of the British National Health Service's Destroyed

Approximately a hundred nurses

Trade-unionists, and political sympathisers formed a picket line on the pavement outside King’s College Hospital in south London last Wednesday after Kareen Gayle concluded her night shift. On the first morning of a two-day strike, rush hour was in effect. Red buses in London honked in support of the nurses’ homemade banners, which said, “Coping? You must be kidding, right? Patients aren’t dying because nurses are on strike. Patients are dying, thus nurses are on strike, according to “N.H.S. Hero to Zero.” As they passed the hospital gates, ambulances whooped their sirens. Nurses applauded. Three individuals beat on drums. Gayle has spent the last eight years of her employment at King’s, one of London’s busiest and largest hospitals, working in the emergency room. She is a single mother of four and has the kind of manner of a nurse that quickly heals (deep kindness, no BS). I pressed her for an instance of how the hospital was now having trouble. For starters, she retorted, “We don’t have enough beds.

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The Royal College of Nursing

The Royal College of Nursing

Which represents more than 300,000 nurses in the United Kingdom, has called the first significant strikes in its 106-year history this winter. (In 2019 there was less activity in Northern Ireland.) Pay is primarily to blame. The R.C.N. asked for a wage rise in March of last year that was 5% higher than the 7.5% inflation rate at the time. Only 4% of National Health Service nurses in England have received pay increases thus far from the government. When Gayle works her regular shift schedule, her monthly paycheck covers her expenses for three days before running out. (Food costs in the UK were 16.8% higher in December than they were a year earlier.) She works extra shifts, sometimes six nights a week in the E.R., to make ends meet. Her youngest child is five years old. She said, “I sometimes feel so, so horrible.” ‘Mum, are you sleeping with me tonight?’ she asks. In addition, I must inform them that “Mummy has to work to pay the expenses.” You are truly missing out, which is very unfortunate. The mood on the picket line was positive despite the constant tiredness from working on the wards and skipping breaks when it came time to urinate. It was a chilly and clear morning. The tops of the hospital buildings were illuminated by a late-rising sun.

Daniel Harrison

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