Portsmouth Health UNISON’s Mark Inch is a trainee clinical scientist and the branch’s Labour Link and Young Member’s Officer; he was recently redeployed onto a COVID-19 ward at the Queen Alexandra Hospital and wanted to thank his colleagues for their tremendous efforts. Portsmouth has been particularly hard hit by the virus with over 200 deaths at the hospital and more than 100 others across the city.
Mark’s experiences on the ward as a stock runner included “13 hour days and 11 hour nights, during which I would have to carry out difficult tasks such as emptying bags of COVID-infected materials. We had to clean, change and turn soiled patients, trying at all times to maintain their dignity. I don’t think the general public realise the extremely tiring manual labour that’s involved when working on these wards.”
One thing that the public have most definitely been aware of is the chronic shortages of PPE, but Mark pointed out that this kit is actually routine wear for nurses in the Critical Care Department. Fortunately the hospital managed to keep a regular supply on the COVID wards, which staff were very grateful for.
Mark found his own preconceptions challenged.
“As someone who is often desk-based, I had quite a few worries about how in-patient work during a pandemic might be; I was expecting to enter ‘blitz’ mode, with overfilled wards and fatigued staff low on morale. Instead I was greeted at every shift by motivated nurses, who never seemed to run out of energy or compassion, and there was lots of space for each patient on the ward. These people do not see themselves as heroes, just people doing their jobs, and no matter how hard it got the patients were always the number one priority. It was humbling performing this role and made me feel proud to live in Portsmouth and work for the local NHS trust.”
He told us that his colleagues are starting to feel like they are getting the appreciation they deserve from the public, but it is vital that the work of NHS staff is not forgotten when the crisis has receded.
“I am appalled that the government has already suggested that we might be facing another public sector pay freeze. My colleagues deserve a proper wage rise, not just for their actions during the last few months, but for the hard work and dedication they show everyday of their lives.”
UNISON was recently vocal in its call for the NHS surcharge to be scrapped for migrant workers within the health care system, an issue Mark cares passionately about.
“Something that I really noticed on the COVID wards were the number of nurses from non-UK backgrounds – people from literally every continent. However, it’s important to note that not all hospital or wider health care staff are employed by the NHS. Staff employed by outsourcing companies might still find themselves liable for this charge, despite the crucial work that they do. UNISON values and respects its members of all nationalities, and understands that our public services simply could not survive without them.”
Our union is reliant on ordinary workers like Mark to support members, and we are always looking to get more people involved with the great work that we do. Right now, we need more people to consider becoming Health & Safety reps, to help keep their workplaces safe. You can find out more here.
Are you a key worker with a story to share about what’s happening in your workplace in the fight against Covid-19? Then we want to hear from you so we can celebrate you, our heroes, and everything you’re doing.