Lancashire NHS carer's "disappointment" at pay rise debate in Parliament

An NHS healthcare assistant whose campaign for better pay for the role saw the issue discussed in Parliament says the outcome of the debate was one of “bittersweet disappointment”.
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Shane Longton, from Preston, posted a message on social media earlier this year, listing dozens of the unseen jobs he did on the average shift.

As the Lancashire Post reported at the time, the post was shared thousands of times, after Shane said he wanted people to realise that he and his colleagues were not just “wiping bottoms and making cups of tea”.

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It prompted him to launch a petition for more recognition – and remuneration – for care assistants in the weeks before the coronavirus pandemic struck. The subsequent surge in appreciation for all carers saw a few thousand signatories balloon to more than 162,000 – easily surpassing the 100,000 mark which entitles the matter to consideration for a parliamentary debate.

Shane Longton wanted to send a message to the top of governmentShane Longton wanted to send a message to the top of government
Shane Longton wanted to send a message to the top of government

Following a two-hour discussion in the chamber last week, care minister Helen Whately reiterated that care assistant pay had increased by 16 percent over the last three years – but did not promise any further rise.

“Our NHS and care system is only as strong as the people within it,” she told the 20 members who gathered on the socially-distanced green benches.

“Throughout the pandemic, NHS and care workers have taken centre stage. We have all seen the dedication and care with which they approach their work and the esteem in which they are held by the public.”

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Shane says that he had been warned by friends not to get his hopes up that his pay call would be heard – but was left still deflated at the response.

“The recognition part of the petition was a success – all of the MPs talked very passionately, including the minister, and I felt that they were genuine.

“But this was the appropriate time to show that recognition and have a serious discussion about pay.

“I hope at least that the recognition of all NHS staff by politicians and the public lasts after the pandemic is over. I think that the NHS is starting to be forgotten about already and things are going back to the way they were.”

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Alex Davies-Jones, the Labour MP for Pontypridd, said during the debate that it was “all too easy to reduce the NHS workforce to doctors and nurses, but given that there are around 400 different job roles, it is important that all NHS staff are given the credit they deserve for their incredible work all year round”.

If that vision comes to pass, Shane will no longer be in the NHS to see it. After three years in the care assistant role, he is moving into social care to give him the flexibility to pursue a childhood dream of becoming an actor.

“I don’t want people to think I’ve left in a strop over the pay – it’s just that the pandemic has made me realise that life is too short not to be doing what you would really like to do.

“But I’ll miss all the people I’ve worked with and the hospital environment as well. And I’ll always remember 2020 as the year I got into politics,” he laughed.