The architect of the weekly applause for health care workers believes it has “had its moment” and should end next week, amid concerns that the gesture is becoming politicised.
While she described being “overwhelmed” by the support for the ritual, she said: “To have the most impact I think it is good to stop it at its peak.
“Without getting too political, I share some of the opinions that some people have about it becoming politicised. I think the narrative is starting to change and I don’t want the clap to be negative.”
Millions across the UK have gathered outside their houses and hung from windowsills to applaud NHS staff, carers and health workers every Thursday since lockdown began, often clanging pots and pans, blaring car horns or even playing musical instruments to show support.
But it has also divided opinion between some who feel empowered and encouraged by the gesture, and others who feel it is patronising – particularly in light of the government’s initial decision, reversed on Thursday, to charge overseas health and care staff for using the NHS.
Medics have also spoken of perceived inconsistencies between the government’s championing of the gesture and what many view as its slow response to the looming crisis, which has left some medics without PPE and facing arguably far more devastating working conditions than they otherwise might have.
Others have pointed to the years of what health experts have frequently described as chronic underfunding of the health service throughout the Tory-led austerity programme.
Speaking more generally of all key workers, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said they had been “overlooked and underpaid”, warning of a “reckoning” after the crisis.
Ms Plas said: “A clap is something normal people can do, showing our appreciation. But the power is not with us. We can give them respect but we are not signing the cheque – that falls on another desk.”
She suggested resurrecting the clap in 2021 to mark a year since the coronavirus outbreak.
Adding: “Stopping clapping doesn’t mean we are not still appreciating them. Some people will still want to carry on, so they should. But we will stop and show our support in other ways – there are other initiatives we can support.”
While Matt Hancock has pledged to “fight” to ensure nurses receive a “fair reward”, Boris Johnson said on Wednesday that the government was “thinking [about] how to recognise the work of healthcare staff, of carers, of many others”.
Additional reporting by PA