You can’t put a price on Care, but you can at least try.

It’s the tone of the comments that really angers me. The condescension, the patronage, the misogyny.

Our Autumn of strikes is continuing, and the big one is coming. Healthcare unions are holding votes on strike action. I think we all know how those votes are going to go. Royal College of Nursing has already confirmed strike action, although dates are still to be set. Given the current cost-of-everything crisis, the general mood of the country, the entitled obliviousness of the government and the way Nurses have been repeatedly screwed over for the last decade, strike action is pretty much inevitable. After years of getting below cost-of-living pay rises, which in real terms meant they were getting pay cuts, even a cost-of-living increase is not enough.

Nursing is a highly trained, highly skilled, absolutely essential profession. It requires intelligence, judgement, resilience, endurance, patience, and empathy. It requires crisis management skills, long shifts, nights and weekends. There is no ‘busy season’ for nurses because it’s always busy, unless there’s an emergency and then it’s worse. Doctors make the diagnosis, but it’s nurses who carry out the treatment. They carry the burden of trying to make you better and hoping they’re doing it right. Because if they’re wrong, people die.

And yet government ministers feel entirely comfortable praising nurses while downplaying the value of their contribution. The hypocrisy of it all is almost too much to untangle.

So let’s break it down. First, the things they say.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said that Nurses are heroes and of course she ‘Clapped for ‘Carers’ during the lockdowns. (And don’t get me started on the ‘Clap for Carers’. They needed more money, more resources, more staff, more support, they didn’t need a round of applause. It was the equivalent of ‘Thoughts and Prayers’ after a mass shooting. It let people feel better about not helping at all.) When Keegan was asked about nurses using food banks, she said it was an emergency, something had broken down, like a “Relationship or a Boiler.”

What does a broken relationship have to do with not having money for food? She’s implying that women fall apart completely with a break up. It’s doubly galling to hear a woman be so misogynistic. Further, why should someone in a highly skilled, highly trained, essential and “Heroic” profession like nursing be financially crippled by a broken boiler? Why are these Professionals living paycheque to paycheque? And while it’s true that Nurses are using foodbanks as an emergency measure, it’s an on-going emergency, not an occasional stop-gap.

The BS continued from Health Minister Lord Markham. He was given the example of an NHS Nurse in the top pay band working alongside agency nurses earning 2 or 3 times her wage. When asked if this nurse should vote to strike or quit the NHS and join an agency, he said “I would hope and trust that such a respected person would see this position as the vocation that it is.”

Vocation. Congratulations, Lord Markham, you have scaled the Cliffs of Condescension to reach Peak Patronage.

Calling Nursing a vocation; on the one hand it elevates the profession. It’s not just a job, you need more than just training to cope with it, not everyone has what it takes. All true. On the other hand, it implies the job is a calling, that it’s more important than mere earnings, that talking of money somehow sullies the purity of the profession.

The only thing sullying the profession is the bullshit the government is spraying on it.

Meanwhile, here’s what the government does.

While Nurses are using food banks, MPs get gourmet meals at the House of Commons, fully funded by the taxpayer. While Nurses (and most of the rest of the country) are making Heat or Eat decisions, MPs are putting energy bills on their expense accounts. While Nurses, and everyone else, are being told not to expect too much in such tough times, MPs earn £84,000, Cabinet Ministers as much as £140,000. The Cost-of-Living crisis hasn’t touched them. The inevitable Tory ‘Austerity’ measures won’t touch them either.

The Nurses are essential workers, and they need to go in strike. The work they do is priceless. That doesn’t mean we don’t need to pay for it.

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