This unprecedented strike by the Royal College of Midwives is a sign of how deep the NHS crisis is. The Tories are standing up for the wrong people, argues Wes Streeting.
Wes Streeting writes:
Today, NHS staff are staging a four hour strike - the first NHS strike over pay in 30 years. They include nurses, ambulance staff and, for the first time in NHS history, the Royal College of Midwives. Going on strike is never an easy decision and those involved will lose their pay as a result.
We are in the midst of a crisis in the NHS and in Redbridge we're bearing the brunt of it. One of the reasons why waiting times and service levels in a number of areas is so poor is that we are struggling to recruit and retain staff. It's not hard to see why: staff are under increasing pressure and they're facing real terms cuts in their pay, year-on-year.
NHS staff are asking for a 1% pay rise. Yes, you read that right. Just 1%. Is that too much to ask for front line staff who are in the business of saving lives and providing care to people in their hours of greatest need?
The government have said a 1% pay rise is unaffordable. This is the same Tory-led government that has cut taxes for the very richest and the same Tory Prime Minister that was offering pre-election tax cut giveaways earlier this month without saying how they will be paid for.
The truth is that there are difficult choices to make about public spending and this government is standing up for the wrong people. The people on strike today are some of the most precious staff in the public sector and they have my support. I hope they get their pay rise.