A slow handclap protest against the Government’s 1% recommended pay rise for healthcare staff was “more subdued” than previous claps for the NHS – but “just a first step”, according to those who took part.
Thousands nationwide joined the demonstration at 8pm on Thursday, but some said they were disappointed not to see similar numbers taking part to those that clapped the NHS at the height of the coronavirus crisis last year.
One of those taking part was James Anthony, a cardiac nurse specialist from Birmingham, who said morale has been “awful” at his hospital since the 1% pay rise was announced.
“We know we’re not out of the woods yet with Covid… morale was already bad. Now it’s awful,” the 38-year-old told the PA news agency.
“The thing I hear from friends at work most is ‘kick in the teeth’.
“This evening was just a first step… all of our staff in the NHS have shown how valuable we are, and the whole team needs a pay rise.”
Janet Maiden, a nurse with University College London Hospital, was helped to organise the event with health unions and the TUC, and said she was joined by many fellow staff on the steps of her hospital.
“At five to eight a big group of people walked down from their wards just as they would be finishing to join the clap, and it felt really good,” the 57-year-old told PA.
“We’re running out of nurses, but I don’t know how they expect to attract people without paying decent wages.
“This Government is a special lot – they are so far removed from everyday life… they don’t understand or get how angry people feel. It’s a genuine slap in the face.”
Nicolas Winston, from Hertfordshire, said the clap was “more subdued” than last year’s demonstrations.
“Our street was buzzing with excitement and energy for the original claps for the NHS and in comparison, this was much more subdued and less well attended,” the 42-year-old business owner told PA.
“But I feel that if the movement continues we will see more people taking part.”
Clara Bradbury-Rance, a 32-year-old lecturer who showed her support at home in Dalston, London, told PA: “I couldn’t be prouder of my partner, a nurse who gives so much to her job, patients and colleagues every single day.
“I couldn’t be more ashamed of a government that makes her and others feel undervalued and underpaid even as it relies shamelessly on their overwork.
“We clapped for the NHS workers week after week to show our gratitude. But it was an empty gesture if we don’t back it up with widespread support for this campaign.”
Isobel, a midwife from a London hospital who did not wish to share her full name, said joining the action “felt good”.
“I don’t want to be grateful for the scraps the government is giving us, I want to fight for what we deserve,” the 37-year-old said.
“What we’re asking for is not just a reward for having risked our lives through Covid. It’s what we’re due after a decade of pay cuts.
“The Government knows that we’re going to do our job regardless, and we will do it well because we care. So it hurts to feel taken for granted.”