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Archive for October, 2014

Crossing the picket line

NHS workers went on strike today, and the weather certainly wasn’t helping those on the picket line. This midwife didn’t strike, not because I didn’t agree with the action but solely because I had already, pre-strike call, made an arrangement to meet with a pregnant woman. Midwives were supposed to have badges to wear if they were working but supported the industrial action,unfortunately the RCM ran out almost as soon as they were available, so I just contented myself with telling people I saw that I should have been on strike.

Last night son of my loins phoned me for a chat. During the meandering conversation I mentioned that I should be striking today, however I wasn’t. ‘Good’ was the response from son. What followed was an in depth breakdown of why he felt that NHS employees should count themselves lucky and not expect a pay rise. He works for a company within the private sector where employees, specifically members of his ‘team’, have not received a pay rise in 3 years. He has received a pay rise. I started fairly low key and asked to what professional body his ‘team’ belonged, they don’t. So their annual fees have not increased by over 300% then? Hmmm. How much do you pay to park at work darling son? Well nothing, it’s a company car park. Really love? Well the cost of my parking permit has risen by over 300% in 3 years and is set to rise by another 50% in February. Hey son, when you have to spend the day out of the office who ultimately pays for your food, your sustenance? ‘It’s expenses’ he murmured. He was, by now, remembering that I spend all day, every day out of my ‘office’ and don’t receive any contribution toward food or drink. Hopefully he also recollected that, should I be working in the hospital, I receive no discount on their restaurant food. 3 years ago I did. Incidentally, my daughter, who also works for a private sector company, pays a minimal amount for her meals and if she has to work away from the office receives vouchers for food and drink. ‘You have excellent pensions though’ was the riposte. Well that I’m not totally sure of that, my pot doesn’t seem to me to be that great, but I let him have that point, but not without reminding him that my contributions have increased by over 3% recently. Another deficit in my salary has been the local Trusts decision to abandon the cost of living supplement, that’s over £20 per month. This fact was communicated to son as well. He still didn’t appear to be impressed or feel that I should be protesting about the loss of a recommended 1% pay increase.  Oh well son. Sorry you are comparing to my role to those of your ‘team’. How many lives to they have in their hands. How many times a day do they have to make important, possibly life-saving clinical decisions? How often are they showered in bodily fluids? How often do they work almost around the clock, struggling out of their homes, their beds, to drive to an unfamiliar destination, possibly in adverse weather/road conditions, to be greeted by an emergency situation, totally unsupported? Discussion ended as he remembered the times when ‘Mummy’ would say ‘goodbye’, whilst lugging heavy bags out of the house, just as he was going to bed. Did Mummy receive ‘plumbers rates’ for turning out for hours in the middle of night? No. Mummy received time and a quarter.

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Tomorrow, 13th October 2014, is an historic date in the history of midwifery, for tomorrow midwives are striking for the first time since the profession became regulated. Shock horror, women will be left unattended in labour; babies will die, just a couple of scare-mongering comments I have read in response to articles discussing the industrial action. Wrong. Midwives are ‘striking’ from 7am until 11am on Monday. The strike action may affect elective caesarean sections and routine appointments, other services i.e labour wards, birth centres and the on-call provision for homebirths will be unaffected. For the rest of the week midwives will be working to rule, in other words they will take meal breaks and finish work on time.

Well, how much of this will happen? The usual level of staffing for births will happen, as for the rest………it is unlikely that there will be an adherence to the work to rule.

Why are Midwives joining in the action? The pay review body recommended a 1% pay rise, the government decided not to take this advice. At the same time as this has happened the cost to remain registered as a midwife (or nurse) has increased by 31.6%, with a further 20% rise in the pipeline. The pensions contributions have risen from 6.8% to 9.5%. Those are just a couple of the financial reasons but for me, why would I take action*?

I’m sick, tired and fed-up with the way the maternity services rely upon ‘good will’. A joint staff-side survey in 2012 discovered that two-thirds of midwives work more than 2 hours extra each week and, of those responding, only 2.9% have recompense for the overtime. Many Trusts now operate a 12-hour shift system. Staff working these should expect to have a break, in my experience this doesn’t occur, midwives work through, constantly on their feet and making life or death decisions in frequently stressful situations. The community scenario is often equally debilitating. A community midwife can expect to work all day and then, if on call, may find herself continuing to work through to the following morning. This is not necessarily due to a homebirth happening, s/he can be called in to cover a birth unit or the labour ward. A working day approaching 24 hours is not unusual and this is totally due to ‘a lack of NHS funding and a national shortage of 2,300 midwives‘. This is why I support the action. Yes, I would enjoy a pay rise but far more than that I am calling for an increase in staffing levels. I want the maternity services to be safe for women, babies and care providers.

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