I’ve spoken out recently in Parliament against the public sector pay cap.
Residents of the Dewsbury constituency know that our two local hospitals are under considerable pressure.
Dewsbury and District Hospital has recently seen a significant downgrade and Huddersfield Royal Infirmary is earmarked for future downgrade and closure.
Many will also be aware of the concerns I continue to raise about these cuts – concerns that are sadly borne out by the great number of local people who contact me with their own poor experiences and complaints.
Whilst these cover a variety of health issues, there is one common theme in all the letters and emails: no-one wants to point the finger of blame at NHS staff, because they can see how hard they are working, often in unsafe conditions mainly due to chronic understaffing issues.
In March this year, it was reported that there were over 30,000 vacant full-time positions across the NHS.
There are nearly 200 vacancies at just one of our local hospital trusts alone.
This means that in many hospital wards across the country, staff are having to do the work of two or even three people.
We have all heard the stories of NHS staff working 12-hour shifts without food, water or toilet breaks, where staff are close to breaking point mentally due to the stresses of their everyday working life.
Yet they are consistently ignored when they ask for what should be their basic right: a decent pay rise to reflect the work that they put in on a daily basis in circumstances some of us can only imagine in our worst nightmares.
They are, frankly, heroes.
Lately we’ve heard desperate reports of NHS workers having to cut back on food shopping; miss meals in order to feed their children; use debt services, taking out payday loans or even approaching loan sharks; and even resort to food banks when the money runs out at the end of the month.
Many are leaving the profession to take alternative work in different sectors.
By undervaluing our NHS workers to this extent, the government are presiding over what could be the worst staffing crisis ever seen in the NHS since its inception in 1948.
Instead of looking for solutions to this problem, the government have chosen to inflict a seven-year real-terms pay cut on our NHS staff.
The government have, as yet, offered nothing more than a sticking plaster, with no offer of new money, saying that one group of public sector workers were more valued than another, and a vague promise that maybe in the future there could be a little bit more money made available, but no details on for whom or how much.
It’s clear how the Tories feel about our public sector heroes. We heard that loud and clear in June this year when they voted to keep the public sector pay cap and then cheered in celebration at their “triumph”.
That will stay with me for the rest of my life.
These are people who often put their lives on hold for us and put their lives at risk for us.
They clearly deserve a pay rise to reflect their dedication and commitment.