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‘We’ve been neglected for years’ – Welsh nurses speak out about their reasons for striking

20 Dec 2022 6 minute read
Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) on the picket line outside the RCN offices by Cardiff University Hopsital. Picture by Ben Birchall / PA

Thousands of nurses across Wales have gone on strike over pay and working conditions for the second time in less than a week.

Dozens gathered outside University Hospital Wales in Cardiff on Tuesday, some accompanied by their partners and young children as others who work in the NHS including pharmacists and radiographers joined the picket line in support of their nurse colleagues.

Sarah Hill, deputy manager on the women’s health unit at the Heath Hospital and strike supervisor outside the hospital, said: “The Government need to do something otherwise the NHS is not going to survive as we are.

“We are doing the best that we can, but nurses are leaving their shifts every day, every day crying and in tears because they don’t feel like they’re supported or listened to.

“I’ve been nursing for 39 years and nurses have never had a decent pay rise in my opinion. We’ve been neglected for years and years now and because of that the staff is reducing – people are leaving, people are retiring early and students are not coming into the profession.

“The Government can find money for other things when it suits them, they now need to find money for their nursing staff.”

Ms Hill thanked people for the “terrific” support they have shown nurses on Tuesday, including the ongoing parade of cars honking as they drive past and those who have brought baked goods and hot drinks to the picket line.

‘Critical role’

Helen Perriam, mental health nurse of 10 years, said she was on the picket line in Cardiff fighting for “fair pay and dignified pay”.

“I’ve got a young family, I’ve got a three-year-old and six-year-old, me and my husband work and we look at our pay packets at the end of the month and think, ‘OK, what are we going to cut today? How are we going to manage this month?’ Like most people we live paycheck to paycheck,” she said.

“We don’t go into nursing for the money, but we do expect to be paid a dignified wage for the responsibilities that we hold.

“We as nurses do a critical role, that is after lots of hours of study and we have asked the Government for 10 years for a pay rise, they’ve ignored us, so unfortunately it has come to this and we’ve had to withdraw our labour.”

“We want to be able to provide a dignified service for patients, for our families, for everyone who uses the NHS. And at the moment, that’s not possible and people are being let down,” she added.

“There is money in our society for nurses but it’s a political choice that it has not been given to us.

“They found money for Trident, and for the bailout of the bankers in the 2008 financial crash, they also found the money for PPE which has been unusable to the tune of billions of pounds.

“There’s always money when the rich want it but when ordinary people ask there’s never any.

“People aren’t stupid, the working class can see what’s going, they know we are being shafted and they’re not going to have it any more.”

Madelaine Watkins joins members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) on the picket line outside the RCN offices by Cardiff University Hopsital. Picture by Ben Birchall / PA

‘Really sad’

Madelaine Watkins, 45, a clinical nurse specialist in mental health, said: “There are so many vacancies and nurses are leaving in droves because they can get better pay elsewhere. We’ve got newly qualified nurses and staff using food banks, and they’re actually opening food banks in hospitals now and it’s just not right.

“These are highly qualified professional people who just want to do their job and they haven’t got enough money to pay the rent and pay the bills.”

Ms Watkins, who has been a nurse for 26 years and has chosen to strike, said: “We have 3,000 vacancies for nurses in Wales at the moment and I can’t imagine there are many people applying for them because they know how poor the pay is.

“The fact that the number of billionaires has gone up by nearly 20% since the pandemic shows where their (the UK Government’s) priorities lie. They are for the super wealthy, and it feels like they just don’t care, they won’t even come to the table to negotiate.”

Georgia Sheppard and partner Lewis Wicks with their children Cassie, three, and one year old Tilly join members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) on the picket line outside the RCN offices by Cardiff University Hopsital. Picture by Ben Birchall / PA Wire.

A&E nurse and mum-of-two Georgia Sheppard was joined on the picket line in Cardiff by her partner health care support worker Lewis Hicks, 29, and their two children Cassie, three, and Tilly, one.

She told PA news agency: “A lot of people come to A&E having the worst day of their life, I want to make that better, my colleagues want to make it better for them, but at the moment we can’t do that because there’s just not enough of us. Our nurses are exhausted. They’re trying to do the job of about 10 people.”

“I would lay the blame with the Tory government in Westminster for not giving Wales enough money to be able to pay nurses fairly,” the 30-year-old added.

“I would say to them in Westminster, there’s plenty of money there for the things they want it for, and for their friends who they want to give it to and the rest of us are losing out.”

Asked if she had considered leaving the NHS herself, Ms Sheppard said: “I don’t know what else I’d want to do because I’m really passionate about nursing and about my job.

“But it makes me really sad that there are people who are really passionate and really good at their jobs who are having to do that because they can’t survive on the wage they’re being paid.”

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Valerie Matthews
Valerie Matthews
1 year ago

WHY are Barristers entitled to a 15% pay increase and nurses only one third of that? I am utterly ashamed of the way the UK treats them. Serve us right if they up sticks and went to work in Countries that treat them with the respect they deserve!

George Thomas
George Thomas
1 year ago

There is a long, long list of professions who deserve a pay rise but some of the things UK government is choosing to spend money on instead… paying rail companies so they don’t lose out on profits while strikes are happening? It’s bonkers. However, Welsh government not 100% in control of what is coming to them through UK government so makes picture less clear. What has Senedd spent money on? Going back 10 years or so, aren’t grants to train as a nurse still grants in Wales whereas they’re loans in England? Is this mentioned by any striking nurse in… Read more »

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