Former midwife of the year’s petition for fair pay in the NHS approaches 160,000 signatures

An award-winning London midwife battling against pay freezes has been given a boost as her petition urging Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to award NHS staff a 1% pay rise has gathered almost 160,000 signatures.

Natalie Carter, a midwife at West Middlesex Hospital and former midwife of the year, wants Mr Hunt to implement the recommendations of the Independent Pay Review, which he rejected in March.

Miss Carter, 34, has worked as a midwife for six years and said that after four years of pay restraints and freezes NHS staff deserve a better deal from the government.

She said: “I do understand we’re in a really difficult financial time and I get that it must be really hard for them.

“But I really think that they need to take a look at looking after the staff of the NHS, because if you don’t look after us, then we’re just not going to be able to provide care for the general public.

“It’s been four years, so we’re essentially on a pay cut now because of the below-inflation pay rises,” she added.

“We’re busier, we’re more short-staffed and we’ve had services cut. We work beyond our hours, we always have, and most of us have accepted that that’s just the way it is.”

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) went on strike for the first time in their 133-year history in October, with a second strike last month.

Miss Carter said that her and other staff felt hugely conflicted taking industrial action.

“It was such a hard decision and I found it an even harder decision to do it again a second time. I really don’t know if I could do it again.

“Some of the midwives here wouldn’t be able to do it again financially because for those four hours we’re not paid, and that’s such a financial hit in amongst everything else,” she said.

“But I think we felt pushed into a corner and I felt like it’s the only way we can have any voice to say, ‘If we don’t make a point about this, if we don’t stand up and say anything, they’re just going to think that we’re all happy with this and we’re really, really not.

“And I think we’re trying to say, ‘We can’t go on like this. We’re not coping and we need you to help us’.”

And while her dedication to the job remains strong, the effect of pay restraints over the past four years has forced unwelcome changes in her life.

“I had been renting a flat on my own. With the rising rent and the rise in my bill it became too tight and I had to move back into shared accommodation and I’m in my thirties,” she said.

“I’ll be on call on Saturday night, prepared to stay in the area, go to any mother who is in labour at home.

“I might get called at 2am, I might be up all night and I get paid £1.23 per hour to put myself on call on a Saturday night,” she added.

“You’ve got to put the resources into the profession to enable us to get midwives trained to the skill level where they will be able to save a mother or baby’s life at home, because that’s essentially what I’m there to do.”

Miss Carter hopes the petition will force the government into addressing NHS staff’s concerns and encourages people to write to their MPs to support the petition.

“I think it sends a really clear signal that we’ve also got some public support behind us. And that people are on our side,” she said.

“I’m willing to now give them a chance to hopefully have heard our message, seen the petition and really re-evaluate and think about this. Next year I want to see that they’ve heard us and they need to help us.”

Picture courtesy of Erling A, with thanks

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