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Is Clapping for the NHS and Care Workers Becoming Performative?

NHS and care workers need to be rewarded, and increased salaries are just one route of doing so

✏️Labeeda Ahmed|  @eeda_l

Times are tough. Normality, and all the things that come with it, seem a distant memory. But, whilst we are doing our part to flatten the curve, we tend to remember the heroic NHS doctors and nurses, who never fail to display resilience and courage at all times, especially when we need it most. 

Talk of the coronavirus pandemic has engulfed every news outlet, twitter feed and household, but room must  also be made to discuss something just as pressing: the salaries of the NHS workers, who are fighting to keep the virus at bay. Our gratitude to the NHS for their service should be shown by drawing attention to the very important subject of their salaries, and the need to reward them completely for their efforts. 

Some may argue that their salaries do not reflect the difficult sacrifices they make to safeguard the health of patients and the public at large, nor the true gratitude felt by the British public. Annemarie Plas’ initiative to ‘clap for our carers’, and the extent to which it has been embraced by the British public, is enough to demonstrate the fact that they wish to show their support. 

image via Unsplash

This heart-warming gesture, every Thursday at 8pm, is to say thank you to our doctors, nurses, carers, other NHS employees and volunteers, who endanger their lives in order to defeat this virus. They work at all hours of the day, to bring our hopes of a healthier, happier world, to reality- sooner rather than later. 

However, some are sceptical of this gesture, as they believe it has served as a dismissal of further discussions regarding NHS salaries. It could be that clapping for our carers’ brave efforts, as supportive as the initiative is, may have created the impression that the NHS’ battle against Covid-19 is worthy of such kind gestures, but not a well-deserved pay rise. In order to “repay that debt”, efforts need to be made to implement sufficient funding for the NHS, so that higher salaries and adequate resources, such as PPE, can be granted. 

This is the sentiment, which has been expressed by various people on Twitter, though Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, stated that he is “very sympathetic”, but believes that this debate should be saved for a later date. This is understandable, considering the severity of the current pandemic; it also provides hope that the discussion of NHS salaries is only postponed, not forgotten, and will bring a positive outcome when discussed. 

The new “care” badges unveiled by the Health Minister Matt Hancock

Along with #ClapForOurCarers, petitions have been circulated in order to persuade the government to raise the topic in Parliament. In fact, such petitions have gained additional support through Plas’ initiative. Shane Longton, a healthcare assistant, started a petition, and was initially “cynical” about the clapping, but it actually added to support for his cause – over 142,000 people have now signed the petition. Therefore, though not a direct means of improving the wellbeing of NHS workers, the outward expression of gratitude has attracted attention to initiatives, such as petitions for higher salaries, helping them to be recognised on a larger scale. As well as putting a smile on the faces of doctors, carers and nurses, among others, the debate on better pay has been reignited. Hopefully, it will be the start of meaningful and proactive discussion, leading to a positive settlement in good time. 

It is an undeniable fact that in these trying times, encouragement and appreciation go a long way in reminding us of the purpose of our actions, as well as why they started this journey in the first place. Our claps for the NHS may not be the complete reward for their service, but serve as a reminder to every single carer, that they are seen and appreciated, heroic and brave, and definitely, not alone. If our claps do nothing but bring joy to a worker, who has tended to those affected by Covid-19 tirelessly and continues to do so, it cannot be said that this gesture is in vain. As A&E nurse, Craig Leathard, told social media, “human kindness, that’s how we win.” 

The fight against the coronavirus is a long and difficult one. The lockdown is beginning to show its positive effects, but this should only encourage us to remain persistent in our efforts to help defeat the virus. As for workers of the NHS, their efforts need to be rewarded, and increased salaries are just one route of doing so.

Petitions have been helpful in raising awareness, and it is hoped that the government will review its settlement, whilst remembering the scale of the sacrifices made by all healthcare workers. Until then, #ClapForOurCarers will continue, from doorsteps and balconies across the UK. As a reflection of our unity, faith in better days and most importantly, a thank you. 

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