NHS workers demand pay rise after coronavirus leaves staff 'on their knees'

NHS workers march to Downing Street, London Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Thousands of NHS workers have taken to the streets across the UK to demand better wages for staff left "on their knees" by the coronavirus pandemic.

In London, health workers who have missed out on a public sector pay rise fell silent for two minutes as a mark of respect for colleagues who have lost their lives fighting Covid-19.

Marchers were applauded by members of the public as they headed to Downing Street and chants of “Boris Johnson hear us shout, pay us properly or get out” were directed towards Number 10.

One of dozens of marches planned around the country for Saturday, participants in the capital – many in scrubs – were wearing masks and tried to constantly maintain a social distance from one another.

Meanwhile in Glasgow, protesters used two-metre lengths of blue ribbon to keep themselves an appropriate distance apart.

Placards seen on Glasgow Green included "Enough empty praise, geez a fair raise", "Covid hero pay rise zero", and "Who saved you Boris?".

NHS workers demonstrate in Glasgow Green Credit: Jane Barlow/PA

Health service staff were excluded from the wage increase for around 900,000 public sector workers announced a couple of weeks ago because they are in the final year of a three-year pay deal.

Instead they are due a pay rise next April, but unions want the Government to show its appreciation for NHS staff by bringing it forward to this year.

Dave Carr, a critical care nurse at St Thomas’ – the hospital which treated Prime Minister Boris Johnson – said staff are “on their knees” following months of hard work tackling the pandemic.

Protests in Glasgow Credit: Jane Barlow/PA

Speaking in London, Mr Carr said: “I’ve got 21 years working in critical care and for me that experience was tough.

“I was drained, wearing all the PPE, incredibly long shifts.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life and we’re all exhausted.”

NHS workers march along Whitehall Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

He said “there’s a lot of PTSD around” among colleagues and that many are worried about the possibility of a second wave.

Mr Carr added: “We can’t do the job any more, we had to shut down the NHS to fight Covid and now we’re expected to just turn it back on.

“We’re on our knees, absolutely on our knees. And on top of it they give 900,000 public sector workers a pay rise – and I haven’t got a problem with that – but they carve us out.

“I’m absolutely fuming. Tired and fuming.”

NHS workers at a rally in Parliament Square Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

His sentiments were echoed by Melanie Gale, a senior charge nurse who ran a Covid-positive ward with an “under-staffed hard-working team”.

Ms Gale, who helped to organise the Glasgow event, said: “It was scary times not knowing what was happening – we were in the middle of a pandemic and our NHS workers stood on that front line and gave their all.”

She added: “We’re here today to say we have had enough, we deserve our equal pay. It’s 10 years of not being given a proper pay increase for the jobs we do.”