When all those weeks ago we had our first Clap for Carers it was great. Those of us who were suddenly living more sequestered, less social lives, our work and income gone, felt like we were doing something. We might be spending our days at home, catching up on long neglected tasks, clearing cupboards, or in my case doing jigsaws, but we knew in the hospitals staff whether medical or other were working hard. Delivery drivers came to the rescue of those who could not leave their homes; post became erratic, but still came; paramedics, fire officers, police, street cleaners, bus and train drivers have been working. So it was a shout of recognition that we knew and appreciated that often their health was compromised by going to work while we stayed safe. It was also a great chance to see neighbours, to wave at friends who stayed firmly behind closed windows. It was unexpectedly sociable.
But now it feels time to stop. Not because we are less grateful, rather that the appreciation has been hijacked for political ends. Politicians who cheered when a pay increase for nurses was rejected are now keen to be seen on their doorsteps clapping. It’s great people have come out of retirement to volunteer, it’s great people have made scrubs and masks to give to staff who would otherwise not have them, it’s great people have raised large sums of money to give to the NHS. Only the NHS is not a charity, and it should to be properly funded through our taxes and national insurance and its staff need to be paid a decent wage.
My feeling is we should clap this Thursday, and then clap again when nursing staff get that decent pay rise, when the government not only makes a commitment to fund the NHS properly but actually does fund it properly. That by and large the NHS has coped with the crisis is not because it has all the resources it needs. It has been run down over ten years. While Covid 19 patients have been prioritised other patients have had their treatment put on hold. That includes cancer patients whose life expectancy may be reduced due to the delays. I would not put it past this government to announce that as the treasury has paid out so much in these months and the economy is expected to tank, the NHS is no longer viable. In fact I am sure there are already politicians saying this is a golden opportunity to disband it. It will be a supreme irony if the service we have been applauding is destroyed with the coronavirus the excuse given for that destruction.
Iain Duncan Smith has already been saying big businesses will need tax breaks. It’s not hard to see who is going to be helped when the crisis is over.
Stay safe, keep well.