“Underpaid, overworked and undervalued”, nurses strike at Charing Cross Hospital

Image above: the picket line outside of Charing Cross Hospital

Local residents and passers-by join nurses on the picket line

Nurses represented by the Royal College of Nursing lined up in protest outside Charing Cross Hospital on Monday (6 February), in the first of two consecutive days of industrial action planned for this week.

The national strike does not include every healthcare trust, but does include Imperial College Healthcare trust, which oversees Charing Cross Hospital, Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital, Hammersmith Hospital, St Mary’s Hospital and Western Eye Hospital.

Local residents, passers-by and other NHS workers joined nurses on Monday’s busy picket line, lining both sides of Fulham Palace Road, holding placards saying: ‘It’s time to pay nursing staff fairly’ and ‘Today’s shortages cost lives’.

Image above: Supporters across the road from the hospital

“It’s to do with the lack of respect”

Nurses are striking over poor pay, working conditions and what they have described as “a lack of respect” from the Government. The RCN have published the salaries nurses receive in the 2022- 2023 pay round. The first five bands (out of eight, rising in seniority) earn a starting salary of less than £30,000.

“A lot of it is to do with the pay, but even more it’s to do with lack of respect” the RCN organiser of the picket line told The Chsiwick Calendar. Matthew, who is himself a nurse at the hospital, told me:

“A lot of us, we worked through Covid and we put our families lives at risk every single day we came in. All we got at the end of the day was a clap, and I currently have got nurses and friends of mine going to food banks to feed their families.

“These are people who are saving lives on a daily basis and they have to go food banks to feed their families.”

Image above: nurses on the picket line outside Charing Cross Hospital (picket supervisor, Matthew, Right)

Patients not at risk, say RCN

The RCN said it was calling out twice as many of its members as it did during earlier strikes in December and January. Despite this, Matthew said the action has not jeopardised patient safety:

“I can guarantee that” he said. “As much as we want to make a difference wouldn’t want to put our patients at risk.”

He was adamant they had made sure the wards had adequate levels of staffing. Many of those on the picket line were on their days off.

The industrial action will last until 8 February and has been coordinated to coincide with striking ambulance staff nationwide, though in London no ambulance services are striking this week.

Image above: support from the general public; Lorraine Ainscough (left) Jim Grealy (centre right) and Jane West (right)

Fulham Save Our NHS supports the strike

Jim Grealy, Chair of the Hammersmith and Fulham Save Our NHS group, who was on the picket line on Monday, told The Chiswick Calendar:

“We’re patients, we use the NHS. We know if there are no nurses, no doctors, no technicians, there’d be no NHS and nobody to treat us.

“We know if people are not given a pay rise, they’ll do the common sense thing and leave to get a job so they can pay the rent and pay for food – which many are already doing in large numbers.

“We think it’s awful that people who want to be in treating patients feel they’ve got to be out here because they’re not valued, they’re overworked, they’re underpaid and it’s wrong. The general public support them and we’re part of the general public.”

Hammersmith and Fulham Save Our NHS have gathered 200 signatures from the local people pledging support for striking NHS workers. The signatures were gathered over two separate hour-long periods over the last two Saturdays and have been written on cards which will be presented to the nurses at the end of Tuesday’s strike.

Another protestor, Lorraine Ainscough, a former patient at Charing Cross told me:

“That hospital has certainly saved my life in the past on at least one occasion and it’s saved my husband’s too. He was two and half months in there with Covid and those intensive care nurses were amazing, I used to speak to them every morning.

“I know how busy they were in the night and they kept him alive. So we have to support nurses.”

Image above: Charing Cross Hospital

Appointments and planned care postponed, but come in unless you have been told not to, says Imperial College Healthcare Trust

Claire Hook, chief operating officer at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said:

“Teams across our hospitals have been working closely with local Royal College of Nursing reps to make sure we continue to provide safe and high-quality care, while enabling our staff to take part in the action if they wish to do so.

“Our emergency departments are open, as ever, and we’ve been able to continue with the most time critical operations. We have regrettably had to postpone many of our other appointments and planned care or, where possible, move to phone or video appointments.

“We are under significant pressure right now, particularly in our emergency departments, following a very busy weekend and due to difficulties today discharging patients who are ready to leave hospital. Everyone is working incredibly hard to resolve this challenging situation.

“It’s important that people who need urgent care continue to come forward and that patients with planned appointments attend as normal, unless they’ve been contacted by us.”

Sir Julian Hartley, head of NHS Providers, said today health service managers wanted to see fresh negotiations between the unions and government, but ministers have ruled out re-opening this year’s pay award – worth 4.75% extra on average – and instead have urged unions to start discussing next year’s pay deal.

Asked how long he saw the dispute going on for, Matthew, hte picket line organiser at Charing Cross, told me:

“As long as it takes for them to take notice. We aren’t going to let it go. We deserve a bit more respect than we’re getting.”

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