Kent campaigners are holding a “marathon” protest outside Margate’s QEQM hospital demanding local health services are saved from cuts and privatisation.
Save Our NHS in Kent (SONIK) is also calling for NHS staff to be better paid.
Candy Gregory, a registered nurse and member of SONIK, said: “With lockdown restrictions we cannot at present have the mass marches and demos we’ve had in the past. So instead we’re going for the marathon approach — we’re going to be having a small, legally allowed presence protesting outside QEQM hospital every week until further notice.”
Dr Coral Jones, of SONIK said: “NHS and care home staff have to hold hands of people who are dying as their loved ones can’t be there. They face the threat of infection every day all the time these workers are struggling financially. This is appalling.
“The NHS know staff cannot afford to live on their wages. They even have a ‘pay day loan’ system, run by Greensill , to allow staff to request their wages early.”
Dr Jones said that low pay will lead to a further deterioration of the NHS.
She said: “There is already a shortage of 100,000 NHS workers. Poverty wages causing debt will worsen recruitment and retention.”
She claims keeping wages down is part of a strategy to pave the way for further privatisation of the NHS.
During the Budget in March a one per cent pay rise for NHS staff was proposed.
The rise, which will need to be agreed by an independent panel before going to Ministers this May, is the only rise for public sector workers.
Government says the impact of covid means there are financial constraints and the 1% rise is what can be afforded. Other public sector workers pay, such as for police officers, has been frozen.
The decision has caused a backlash. The Royal College of Nursing Council has responded to the pay increase level by setting up a £35 million industrial action fund.
A strike fund is an amount of money that can be used to support workers, who are members of a trade union, to provide some compensation for loss of earnings and campaigning during industrial action.
RCN Council says it is determined to have the finances available to members should they wish to take industrial action.