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Nurse hits out at health secretary over seven-day working


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.

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”

Jacqui Berry

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.



Readers' comments (13)

  • Well said and very true but I'm sure the government are pushing the envelope for precisely the reasons that we're all protesting against a privatized NHS would not provide the care that the very old and highly expensive long term conditions require the concept of free health care from the cradle to the grave was affordable when the population of UK was much smaller and medicine wasn't able to save as many lives as it does now I work in the NHS and I am proud to do so but I fear for the end of what has been a wonderful free with access to all socialist concept

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  • Good for you! Don't give up fighting for the NHS. Don't let the Tories dismantle it

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  • I wonder if we'll see the day when staff actually argue for the NHS to be separate from the governemnt but in a way that avoids the grotesque of the private sector, in their effort to preserve the essence of the NHS?

    The NHS is both politicised and corporate-like, which is at odds with the heart of it.

    How do you deal with those two things - political football and folks in suits? There's a limit to how long something can be batted back n forth without resolution. Staff will leave. New staff will be sourced from poorer countries until, eventually, what??

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  • Well said!! If I added up all the extra hours I work in the community for free I would be owed a lot of money. But I do it because I care about the patients I look after. This Government need to live in the real world.

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  • High five to you. I am a community nurse and staffing is so tight there would not be a service if we didn't work over and above for our patient's.. In fact I would worry I had missed something if I actually got off on time.

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  • Consultants are already paid too much for what they do. Most go around like Gods on the wards feeling they are too important to talk to the nurses, ask only to speak to the ward Sisters. They are actually humans who happen to know a lot about a certain part or parts of the human body. Surely if you have been doing the same job for so long you will get good at it. Nurses on the other hand are the main life blood of Health. Our pay is pityful at grade 5, the main workforce. Weekends and unsocial hours extra pay is what helps keep our heads above water. This year more than any time in my nursing life makes me really sad I stayed so long and not moved on to something else. No one is listening, it feels like no one in authority really cares.

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  • Anonymous | 5-Aug-2015 10:21 pm

    envy provoking irrationality. study for as long as them and work as hard to get where they are and you could be paid that much too.

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  • At Last someone speckig putzen abput what is reale Gong in in The NHS. Well Saison Jacqui. This is not a fight between doctors and nursing and midwifery. I'm sure sure Jeremy Hunt would love to see divisiveness and in fighting to bolster his position. The state of the health service, the lamentable lack of support for the elderly, it's a travesty and why on earth are we not marching up and down the country in protest. After all this is supposed to be a democracy. We cannot turn our backs on this one as eventually we too will need a kind person, suitably rewarded for their efforts, to see us through to the other side. Go Jacqui you are a courageous woman. Cheers to all hard working overworked and underpaid nurses and midwives. Helen

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  • Oh dear. Sorry about spelling! H

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  • Medics and nurses don't work alone and the focus needs to change to AHP - don't forget the need for 7 day physio, OT, Pharmacy, dietician services.
    As a nurse how often have you seen patients wait in hospital for the physio to ensure the patient is safe or OT to do a home visit. 7 day working for ALL Professions can only enhance the patient experience and improve the discharage process.
    Pay professionals well for the expertise they deliver!

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