Lockdown has not been easy for anyone. We have all had to radically change how we live our lives. While we have all had to comply with social distancing, with many adapting to working from home for the first time while also embracing home schooling, for those working on the front line their situation has been very different.
There are so many unsung heroes, perhaps truly recognised and appreciated for the first time in their careers and in the 70 year history of the NHS as the nation has taken to their doorsteps on Thursday evenings to clap for the NHS, not only acknowledging the service and sacrifice of the NHS workers, but also delivering a sense of solidarity within the broader community – a sense of we really are ‘all in this together ‘!
Many NHS workers came out of retirement to re-join the front line in the fight against COVID, and some, like Edem Dzigbede made the ultimate sacrifice and paid the ultimate price.
Working under extremely difficult circumstances with all the discomfort of wearing PPE, and the concern over PPE availability, it is not just the physical challenges, but also the emotional toll of caring for COVID patents that has taken its toll. With dying patients not allowed visits from family members, it has fallen to NHS staff to facilitate calls via phone and face time with loved ones and be a soothing presence at the end of individuals lives.
Placing themselves at risk
They have undertaken these roles without complaint, and going that extra mile – and earning salaries which do not (in my opinion) reflect their level of commitment or service, with average salaries on websites for NHS support workers listed in the region of £18K, and for nurses £28K. We all owe a huge debt of gratitude. Our sacrifices in the form of social distancing pale into insignificance by comparison. Many NHS key workers chose not just to place themselves at risk on a daily basis- but also distanced themselves and lived apart from their immediate families in order to limit their risk of infection.
Lockdown has curtailed personal freedoms, but it has ensured that the NHS had the capacity to care for all who needed it – at no cost to the individual needing the care. Imagine living in a country where you experienced symptoms but were too concerned about the financial implications of seeking medical care. I can remember staying with family in Canada, when my cousin suddenly collapsed when we were out. Although I was able to get her to a hospital, I was astounded to be met with a mound of paperwork regarding her medical insurance cover, which I had no details for, before she was attended to. I had to wait for her partner to arrive with all the relevant information. I assume that if they thought she was at death’s door they would have acted – but it highlighted how fortunate we are here in the UK to not have to give the cost of care a second thought if needed. In some countries it is not just the care that needs to be funded but the ambulance service as well.
Will our newfound appreciation of key workers in the NHS change how we value the roles of individuals in the wake of this pandemic? We will have a greater appreciation for its existence and availability? Will we value the real life heroes over and above social media influencers and celebrities? Vogue Magazine placed key workers on its latest cover. A mark of permanent change or a temporary tribute? Time will tell.