Blog: Government must treat health workers with respect

As Westminster announces a huge COVID booster drive, it must start listening to the people who will deliver the jabs to help protect us all

Gloved hand holding vial of COVID-19 vaccine

Yesterday, we heard the sad news of the first death from the Omicron variant of COVID-19. And for the second Christmas in a row, we are relying on health workers to respond to the latest crisis in the pandemic.

This time, they are under huge pressures to deliver a mammoth booster vaccine programme and are bracing themselves to care for another wave of hospital patients.

The booster programme is vital to saving lives and helping to reduce the number of hospitalisations. It relies almost entirely on the efforts of the NHS workforce – and without their dedication, skills and experience, there would have been no jabs, in any arms, over the last year.

Health workers respond to a crisis by going above and beyond, to make sure the work is done. This means taking on greater physical and mental strains, cancelling annual leave and family time, and putting their own lives at risk. These are huge sacrifices that cannot be ignored.

Earlier this year, health staff asked the Westminster government to just speak to them about their pay. It was a simple ask – to give health workers the opportunity for meaningful dialogue with the government.

After all they had already sacrificed, they wanted the chance to talk about how their pay should truly reflect their work. The government did not give them the dignity of a proper response, let alone a respectful and meaningful conversation.

And now, in stark contrast, they are demanding that health workers cancel their annual leave and respond to this crisis to protect as many lives as possible.

Of course, they won’t ignore what’s needed of them, because that’s their job. But it’s the job of governments to treat public service workers with respect, to listen to them, and to make sure they receive fair pay for their essential, life-saving work.