Last week, we spoke to community nurses who are being given one cotton mask per worker and told to re-use them. They don’t have any other PPE. They see patients in their own homes. The Guardian reported that the coroners conducting inquests into the deaths of NHS staff have been ordered not to examine PPE shortages as a cause of death.
We don’t want to be ungrateful. The COVID 19 pandemic has been terrifying for all of us in health and care work, and it is truly incredible to witness the outpouring of public support for the NHS and care workers in this difficult time.
But we have mixed feelings about the clapping. You can’t understand what health and care workers are going through right now without understanding how political an issue this is. Our government have failed us, and we are dying as a result. Years of NHS underfunding, a sluggish and disinterested response from the government and a precarious, privatised social care sector have all contributed to make this crisis into a catastrophe for workers and service users.
Once you realise this, the passive, de-politicised nature of the Boris-endorsed weekly clapping will start to make you feel very uncomfortable. Despite the good intentions, the public are clapping for us while we’re being stamped on and treated as expendable by our masters. It’s hard to understand why so many people are clapping us and yet so few seem to be doing anything to intervene. Why aren’t people angrier? Where is the action? Where is justice?
We are trying to raise a solidarity fund for health and care workers. This has been difficult so far- we are a tiny organisation and all of us are front-line health and care workers, so we have very little time and mental energy to put into this, especially in the current crisis. That said, we still think this fund is important. It could make a real, material difference to workers’ lives.
So if you are going to clap for the NHS tonight, think about what you can do to practically support health and care workers as well. Please consider donating to the solidarity fund. If you’re not able to give money (and we understand that lots of workers are struggling right now, not just us) then please consider sharing the link on your social media and telling your friends and neighbours about the fund.
If you’re going to clap on your doorstep, use the opportunity to talk to your neighbours. Challenge their complacency. Politicise the issue and push for action.
Love and strength.
Bristol Care Workers Network
This is a re-post from Bristol Care Workers Network website.
Photo: Guy Smallman