Nurses from a new campaigning group demonstrated outside Downing Street demanding better pay and improved personal protective equipment, particularly for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff, who are at higher risk of dying from Covid-19.
Nurses United UK said the profession was too often ignored and it wanted more of the healthcare professionals to actively fight for better pay and demand more protection against coronavirus.
Several nurses, dressed in scrubs and face masks, protested outside the gates of Number 10 on Wednesday, holding placards saying ‘Sack Cummings Save Lives’ and ‘Boris your clapping sucks. Raise our pay instead’.”
Organiser Anthony Johnson, 27, told the PA news agency: “There is an issue where people don’t listen to nurses, they ignore our voices.
“We want nurses to get active.”
Mr Johnson said he feared there would be a second coronavirus peak and there needed to be “real protection” against Covid-19 for nurses, particularly BAME staff.
Nurse Ameera Sheikh also held a placard in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
It said: “I’m not black but I see you. I’m not black but I hear you. I’m not black but I will mourn with you. I’m not black but I will fight for you.”
A new review from Public Health England found BAME people are at significantly higher risk of dying from Covid-19, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock insisting “black lives matter” as he published the study on Tuesday.
London-based nurse Malcolm Bennison, 35, said: “When everyone was asked to shelter, nurses met the challenge along with other key workers.
“We were subject to the most exposure without the necessary protection.”
He said a pay rise was fair as nursing is the “lowest paid degree-only profession in the country”.
Mr Johnson said the organisation had also launched a personal protective equipment (PPE) tracking tool, where nurses can anonymously submit details of where there are shortages.
The group is also calling for the Government to introduce a 10% pay rise for nurses, noting France has already promised a “significant” pay boost for its health staff amid the pandemic.
Polling by YouGov last month showed more than three quarters (77%) of the UK public agree with the policy of a permanent 10% pay rise for nurses.