A hospital nurse from Kent has made waves with a YouTube video in which she accuses health secretary Jeremy Hunt of a “wholesale attack on the NHS”.
Jacqui Berry, an intensive care at Medway Foundation NHS Trust’s Medway Maritime Hospital, has hit the headlines after posting the online critique as part of a widespread backlash against new proposals for seven-day working.
“Jeremy Hunt, minister for health, accused us NHS staff of being a bunch of nine to fivers, which is ironic coming from someone heading off for a seven-week break,” she says in the video, which has been widely shared and watched by more than 32,000 people on YouTube alone.
“It might surprise the minister to learn that people don’t become critically ill exclusively within office hours. The truth is we already have seven-day working within the NHS – this government just doesn’t want to have to pay us for it.”
Last month, Mr Hunt said doctors should “get real” about working weekends and said senior staff were not doing enough weekend shifts.
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While the proposals centre on doctors, the government’s plans include “making sure there is adequate staffing among other clinical groups” and ensuring there is out of hospital care so more people can be discharged at weekends.
But campaigners like Ms Berry, who stood as a Trade Unionist and Socialist parliamentary candidate in the general election, fear terms and conditions may not be adjusted alongside any new working arrangements.
She argued “you can’t demand an expansion of seven-day services without providing the money to pay staff”.
“If hospitals are in crisis then surely the answer is not to chastise the very people who keep the whole operation going often on goodwill”
She joins thousands of angry NHS workers who have posted selfies and video clips on social media of them working on Saturdays and Sundays along with the hashtag #ImInWorkJeremy
In the video, she claims many nurses have already got so fed up with poor pay and conditions they have turned to agency work – opening the door for privatisation.
“This is wholesale attack on the NHS as part of the drive for further privatisation,” she says. “As more and more NHS staff in the face of worsening pay and conditions say ‘f this, I’ll just do agency’, pension liabilities are reduced making services more appealing to private companies.”
She describes how on one recent shift she left the hospital an hour and a half late and got home too tired to cook a healthy meal.
“If hospitals are in crisis then surely the answer is not to chastise the very people who keep the whole operation going often on goodwill,” she adds.
The government has strongly defended its stance on seven-day working, highlighting statistics that suggest patients are more likely to fare less well and even die if admitted to hospital at the weekend and that some doctors may earn more under the proposals.
A policy paper published by the Department for Health says the concept of seven-day working has widespread support across the health sector.
A spokeswoman for the DH told Nursing Times it would not comment on individual social media posts.
She also stressed ongoing negotiations were around contracts for consultants and junior doctors and not nurses.