'Demoralised' Nurses Savage Health Minister Helen Whately In TV Debate Over NHS Crisis

Labour's Wes Streeting told Whately:
Labour's Wes Streeting told Whately:

Labour's Wes Streeting told Whately: "Can we sack you or the health secretary or the prime minister for failing to meet any national standards on non-strike days?”

Health minister Helen Whately has been confronted by a barrage of criticism from nurses over the government’s battle with health workers over pay.

Nurses went on strike on Wednesday once again today and also announced earlier this week that they are to hold two more days of industrial action next month in their long-running and historic dispute.

On a special edition of Channel 4 News discussing the current pressures on the health service, two nurses spoke directly to Whately about how “patients are not safe” and that the profession feels “burnt out” and “demoralised”.

Rhian Wheater said: “I have been an NHS nurse for 24 years and I have never seen the NHS in the crisis it is in right now.

“We have 48,000 nursing vacancies. Our wards are unsafe. We are shouting and telling you our patients are not safe. The government are not doing anything about it.

“You’re talking about strike days being safe for patients, but what about non-strike days when we can’t look after our patients.”

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Another, Maxine Ward, said: “Your government need to engage in talks with the Royal College of Nursing because it is insulting that the onus is on us to do this. The fact that we have even had to go on strike in the first place, after everything we have gone through as a profession over the last few years ...”

She added: “I don’t think this government appreciates how burnt out and demoralised nursing staff are in this country, because we can’t do our jobs.”

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Later, shadow health secretary Wes Streeting goaded the minister by asking “can we sack you?” – a reference to government plans to bring in anti-strike laws that could see health service workers sacked for failing to provide a minimum service during industrial action.

The Labour MP said: “You are now threatening to sack these people for failing to provide minimum standards on strike days. Can we sack you or the health secretary or the prime minister for failing to meet any national standards on non-strike days?”

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Whately said that the government was “listening” to NHS staff.

She said: “We are listening and I hear you on how hard it is.

“I come from a family of doctors and nurses, I use the NHS, myself and my family.”

But Whately added: “We have a pay review process which is independent from government to work out what is a fair level of pay, recognising of course that we must reward staff… but of course, we need to have a level of pay that the country can afford.”

She called on nurses’ unions to “negotiate and take part in that pay review process so we can get this right for the years ahead”.

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