Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Quickfire
2 December 2022

Striking NHS staff don’t just want pay rises – they want a clean conscience

Nurses and ambulance drivers need to make a statement about the risk posed to patients by stretched resources.

By Anoosh Chakelian

Last winter, I spoke to a paramedic who had just spent an entire overnight shift – 12 hours, plus an extra two and a half – with one patient. This wasn’t a lengthy extraction of a person from car wreckage, or some kind of marathon CPR session on the scene. It was an elderly patient who had fallen and broken their hip, lying in the back of an ambulance in the hospital car park, from 6.30pm until 9am.

All the while, the paramedic was hearing calls coming in on her radio – the control room asking her to respond to category one cases, the most life-threatening. She could not respond to any of those patients who needed her because she was stuck with her patient, waiting for a bed in a full emergency department. More than 11,000 ambulances a week are waiting in queues of at least an hour outside A&E units in England, according to the latest figures. The handover time should be 15 minutes.

Every time my source and her colleagues were unable to respond to a 999 call, she said they suffered a “moral injury”. It’s a phrase that has stuck in my head since we spoke. As labourers risk physical injury, health workers are suffering from damage to their consciences. The working conditions for front-line NHS staff are high-pressure, emotionally draining and physically exhausting – but they are now morally dangerous too.

This is why it makes no sense to oppose strikes by nurses, paramedics and 999 call handlers on the grounds of patient safety. More than 10,000 ambulance workers have voted to go on strike, joining 100,000 nurses planning to walk out this month, and following the first act of industrial action by emergency call handlers in October. Of course, patients will feel the impact and waiting lists will grow. But if health workers don’t make a drastic statement about the risks posed by a lack of staffing, levels of burnout and stretched resources, then patients – like all those people calling 999 during that one 14-and-a-half-hour shift – will also struggle to be heard.

[See also: Explained: where will NHS nurses strike and how will it impact me?]

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

Content from our partners
Are we there yet with electric cars? The EV story – with Wejo
Sherif Tawfik: The Middle East and Africa are ready to lead on the climate
How deception can become your friend

Topics in this article : , , ,