NHS staff in tears with morale ‘down on the ground’ as wages no longer cover basics of life

NHS nurses, midwives and more who have been working on the frontlines of healthcare during the pandemic are now finding themselves forced to use food banks

joe baldwin,
Joe Baldwin, an NHS clinical care assistant who was forced to use a blackboard

Clinical nursing assistant Joe Baldwin has been working tirelessly on the front lines of the NHS during the pandemic.

The 36-year-old has been deployed across all wards at Liverpool’s Aintree Hospital as he joined thousands of colleagues across the UK in going above and beyond the call of duty to keep the critically ill alive.

But Joe was beginning to realize that the life he had known was slipping away from him. Despite his 14 years of hospital experience, he was only earning £18,500 a year and when prices started to skyrocket his wages no longer covered livelihoods.

He had to move out of his dockside apartment and rent a cheaper one, join a food union to buy subsidized goods, and give up his monthly bus pass.

Some days now he walks the six miles from his city center home to the hospital.

Glasgow native Joe says in a low voice: “Things went uphill and I had to borrow to survive. Suddenly I had to choose between paying the bills or buying groceries, and the bills came first.







Liz Collins, a midwife at Liverpool Women’s Hospital, speaks at the TUC public gathering
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Picture:

Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)







Liverpool West Derby MP Ian Byrne spoke at the TUC public meeting for Liverpool Demands Better at the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool to discuss why working people have enough and hear unions fight back
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Picture:

Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)

“I just feel oppressed. It’s soul-wrecking talking to my co-workers. Morale is low in our hospital.

“Even senior executives who make £35,000 are on their knees. I’ve seen them slide down walls and cry their eyes out.

“People are missing shifts and calling in sick because they can’t afford the daycare costs.”

What a way to treat these heroes that we so proudly clapped on our doorstep not so long ago.

We are sitting in the banquet room of the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool at a rally to publicize the TUC Day of Action on Saturday.

I’ve been to weddings and birthdays in this large chandeliered room and heard it rock with joy and laughter. But this time it’s shaking with anger. As more than 100 people listened to stories of the pain and suffering unleashed by the worst cost-of-living crisis in decades, there was anger and despair.

Liz Collins, a midwife straight from her shift at Liverpool Women’s Hospital, shares Joe’s experience. The 57-year-old, who has worked in the NHS for 40 years, says: “Not long ago you would never have dreamed that NHS professionals would use food banks, but I know midwives, nurses and health workers who do.

“There are probably a few hundred in Merseyside and Cheshire.” The country’s image proves her right. At least six NHS trusts have introduced food banks or employee vouchers to help with rising living costs.

Liz adds: “We feel undervalued, underpaid and working longer hours than contracted, but the feeling of not being able to make ends meet is worse than ever. When I started in the 1980s, you didn’t hear people constantly complaining about the pay. I feel so sorry for single parents who are struggling to feed their children and heat their home.”

Research by debt collector Lowell and US think-tank Urban Institute shows that five of England’s 10 constituencies hardest hit by the cost of living crisis are in Merseyside.

The city has always known poverty. From those who emigrated from Ireland during the famine of the 1840s to the Depression of the 1920s and Margaret Thatcher’s economic earthquake that decimated production in the 1980s.

But today we have a different kind of poverty. In the past it was because of not working and having no money.

Today much of this is experienced by people who have one or even two jobs.

We didn’t hear in the 1980s that teachers brought food to feed students, proud families didn’t have to beg to food banks, and retirees didn’t go to bed at 5 p.m. because they couldn’t afford to eat or lock the house heat .

As Margaret Tyson told the audience: “When I retired I thought I had enough money to last until I died. Now I worry that I don’t. No one advocates retirees. We cannot go on strike, but we expect you to support us.

“Fight for the pensioners because we fought for you.”

West Derby MP Ian Byrne, who is trying to legislate a basic right to food, is desperate at the poverty he sees around him.

He says: “We are in the greatest crisis in living memory. Two weeks ago I got a call from a pensioner saying he had to decide whether to heat his wheelchair or have it powered.

“It’s a complete failure of capitalism and it can’t go on like this.

“I have a quote from Nelson Mandela in my office. It states: “Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and can be overcome and eradicated through human action. It’s about time we moved on with that.”

Saturday’s TUC march and rally in London will be a start.

  • All week the Daily Mirror travels the UK covering the cost of living crisis and its aftermath. Today we are on the front line in Liverpool.

The TUC demands…

The Mirror supports the TUC’s We Demand Better march and rally.

Join the march and rally on Saturday. Gather at Portland Place, London from 10.30am. March at 12 p.m. Rally at 1 p.m

tuc.org.uk/DemandBetter

  • .A real raise for every worker and a real living wage for all.
  • Respect & Safety for All Workers: Ban Zero Hour Contracts & Layoffs, Decent Sick Pay Now.
  • Stop racism in the workplace.
  • Real, lasting push for universal credit.
  • Strengthen union bargaining rights now.

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