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Peace to Pandemic: NHS Deserves More Than Applause

Updated: Jan 13

Georgie Chantrell-Plant reveals some of the cracks illuminated by the 'Clap for Carers' movement.

Photo by Luke Jones

Starting on the 26th March, near the peak of the coronavirus pandemic in the UK, a national movement swept across the country as millions took to their doorsteps to take part in a weekly clap for our NHS Heroes on the healthcare frontline – the Clap for Carers

This lasted for 10 weeks with each instance becoming more and more powerful, evolving into a symbolic break from the monotony and severity of lockdown. 

A shining light of hope for the country and its residents, with mottos such as “Thank You NHS” and “NHS Heroes”, the weekly round of applause presented the narrative of a huge swell of appreciation for all of the doctors, nurses, paramedics and healthcare assistants up and down the country for saving countless lives. 

The event was first established by Londoner Annemarie Plas, who desired to give something back and show some much-needed and deserved appreciation for all frontline and key workers during the crisis. The feeling of gratitude across Britain while everyone joined together to applaud our heroes was palpable.

Now it’s over, perhaps it is time to take stock and analyse the movement’s benefits in uniting a nationwide community to show support for those saving our lives, but also for the inadequacy of rewarding our saviours with a mere clap. 

One NHS Consultant feels that the clapping overshadows the support that is actually needed:

Are we still allowed to complain about poor resources and potentially unsafe working conditions now we’ve had clapping, rainbows, free doughnuts and a centenarian walking round his garden for us? How dare we?” 

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Clapping Over the Cracks

The Clap may not have been sincere from everyone who participated, as it represented an opportunity for politicians to improve their image by taking part, yet simultaneously failing to provide appropriate funding for the NHS and enough supplies for PPE. In April, the Guardian provided a timeline on those shortages whilst the clapping was happening.  

Home Secretary Priti Patel offered what many are deeming a ‘non-apology’ by responding to claims of shortages by stating: “I’m sorry if people feel that there have been failings”. This was after it was revealed 19 UK healthcare workers had died after contracting the virus, however now that death toll has risen exponentially, as it is reported that 200 have now died, yet it is feared that the total may be far higher. 

It is no secret that the pandemic has placed a huge strain on the NHS, but even before that the NHS was struggling due to lack of funding and constant budget cuts. So, when the statement ‘Protect the NHS’ became PM Boris Johnson’s pandemic-slogan, it begs the question–why wasn’t it properly funded and protected from the get-go? 

Could his involvement in the weekly ritual along with so many other government officials have been solely a front and a pacifier to hide the previous negligence of the country’s greatest asset?  With it being such a heavily televised weekly event, could it have been a thinly-veiled attempt to refuse to face up to other shortcomings in the response to COVID-19?

Abandonment of Healthcare

It was recently announced that thousands of 3rd Year student nurses who were recruited into the healthcare system early during their studies to help during the pandemic are now having their placements cut short, leaving many in financial turmoil. This has sparked unsurprising outrage as the nurses have been told by Health Education England that the NHS can no longer afford to keep the paid placements going until the end of September despite their dedicated work on the frontline in the past months. 

Lead Organiser of Nurses United UK, Anthony Johnson states:

“Student nurses are not all young, they have families and mortgages to support. And if there is a second peak, we're going to be asking them to get involved again.”

Shadow Health Minister Justin Madders also commented:

“Their personal commitment should be recognised and reciprocated by the Government. They do not deserve to be cast aside like this and ministers must explain exactly what is happening.”

So, with these reports arising, it brings forward new waves of concern as to how the NHS has been treated and may continue to be in the future.

Many NHS workers constantly sacrificed and worked long hours even before the pandemic, and their commitment to others and their work has remained unchanged. It seems shameful that it took a worldwide pandemic for us to truly notice the hard work and selflessness of the individuals who save lives day in and day out, and that the government is still lacking in their appreciation and dedication to helping the invaluable Service. 

What’s Next for ‘Clap for Carers’?

It is hoped that now the weekly iteration of ‘Clap for Carers’ is over, the nation's attitude towards the NHS will be changed for good, and more people will notice that it needs to be protected and cannot continue to go underfunded. 

Plas has stated that now it has ended, she hopes for her vision to evolve into an annual event so that the continual efforts of our invaluable NHS staff are not forgotten.  But it is important to remember this:

“The NHS is not a charity and it isn’t staffed by heroes. It has been run into the ground by successive governments and now we are reaping the rewards of that neglect, on the background of the public health impact of years of rampant inequality in the UK.”– Anonymous NHS Consultant

You may also like: Lessons from Lockdown and the "New Normal"

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