CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

What NHS workers want

26 March, 2020

• YOU don’t need to be a medical expert to be able to listen to NHS workers, who are constantly asking for the same three things, the things that will begin to allow us to get a hold of the virus.

– PPE, personal protective equipment with front line workers a priority;

– Intensive testing, with priority for NHS workers;

– Proper social distancing/ isolating with enforcement.

Today, in our NHS sites, already suffering under year after year of government cuts and underinvestment, we will be missing perfectly healthy workers, who are at home for two weeks self-isolating after being in contact with an infected person.

We will have workers with the virus, passing it on to the public and co-workers, and we will have hourly paid who are mainly concerned with getting paid, so they can pay their bills.

The government cannot be said to be taking the crisis seriously; if they cannot even create safe areas within NHS buildings, how can they pretend to be protecting the public?

Even today, Tuesday, we see photos of full tube trains. Many of these will be self-employed and those who cannot afford to be sick. There is still no provision for the self-employed, and the statutory sick pay of £95 a week is simply not liveable or tenable.

The government must address these urgently to create the conditions for a lockdown which is the only way to tackle the virus.

Locally we have major issues with lower food bank donations at this time of greater need, and a lot more needs to be done for the homeless and rough sleepers.

Our neighbours in Islington Council have engaged with Streets Kitchen, and other experts in this area, taken their advice, and have opened buildings for the homeless to use. It would be great if Camden Council could take the same steps urgently.

There are some positives.

Many readers will be involved in the Camden COVID-19 Mutual Aid group which has started, or one of the thousand other groups round the country.

Unite the Union has a helpline for members needing help at home on 0330 107 2351, and a benefits related helpline on 0333 202 6563.

Free smartphones for the elderly is another item which should already have been in place, and this is a great time to do it.

There are great benefits helping families stay in touch, and an easy way for the government to deliver messages and information to this vulnerable group.

I can’t stress enough that these are not pie in the sky items, or a shopping list of nice to have things.

These steps are being taken in other European countries, and are the minimum required to create an environment where the virus can be properly measured, contained and removed.

GARETH MURPHY
Unite Community Camden
– personal capacity

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