Commemorating the NHS, social care and frontline workers who risk it all

NHS, Social Care and Frontline Workers' Day
6 min read
08 July, 2021

Monday, July 5 marked NHS, Social Care and Frontline Workers’ Day. On this day in 1948, the National Health Service (NHS) was born, giving free health care to everyone. On this day we honour the dedication, selflessness and hard work of key workers from every sector who have been the backbone of this country.

NHS doctors, nurses, pharmacists and paramedics have been working around the clock away from their families so that they can look after us. Individuals working for public transportation are working hard to ensure that we can travel to our destinations safely and efficiently. Supermarket workers are working tirelessly to keep shops open and essentials stocked. Not only have key workers kept our essential services running, but they have given us hope, relief and moments of happiness during this difficult and unpredictable time.

Key workers carry stories of relief, loss, hope, joy and sadness. This day of remembrance and celebration is bitter sweet for many key workers

While it is important to hold an annual day of gratitude and remembrance, it is important to appreciate the work key workers do all year round and recognise that they need more than a day of celebration. The government have broadcasted the message “Stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives” and yet for the last 10 years the government have not protected the NHS. The government could and should do more to help key workers rather than refusing to give them a deserved pay rise and cutting funding in their sectors.

Key workers carry stories of relief, loss, hope, joy and sadness. This day of remembrance and celebration is bittersweet for many key workers. It is heart-warming to see the community come together to raise money but the NHS shouldn’t be a charity. It is the government’s responsibility to invest in the sector and fulfil its obligations to uphold our human rights.

Many people have expressed excitement for things to “go back to normal”. But we need better. Front line sectors cannot go back to the way it was pre-pandemic. Key workers know this all too well.

The New Arab spoke with key workers who share their experiences and their thoughts on the NHS, Social Care and Frontline Workers’ Day and explain what their sector needs.

Nargis Begum, a Mental Health Nurse:

“Nursing is intense but I love my job because I get to help people not only get better but to learn a bit more about themselves. Moments of joy and hope stems from the little moments a patient shows appreciation for the help they don’t think they need but have accepted it anyway.

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The tireless work of nurses has been a foundational pillar behind the United Kingdom's successful vaccination drive [Getty Images]

"The pandemic hit in my very first year as a qualified nurse. Nothing in your training or experience can prepare you for it. So as much as it’s nice to have a day dedicated to it, I don’t think the government and many people understand the full extent of what it is like to work during the most unprecedented time.

"We’re limited with funding, staffing and specialist services. Although clapping is a nice gesture it will not solve years of underfunding and service closures. Change needs to happen.”

Roohi Khushtar, a Clinical Pharmacist:

“Working as a clinical pharmacist has been extremely rewarding. I’ve felt a weight lift off my shoulders when patients are safely discharged with a smile on their faces. I’ve also felt extreme pressures and sadness when patients deteriorate and having those difficult conversations with close friends and family.

"The appreciation shown during our struggle in the pandemic has meant a lot to us. But what needs to be made aware is that we are burnt out. We are working our hardest, longer hours and endure stressful situations with hardly a break. Our well-being matters. There needs to be more in place to ensure mental health needs are being met especially for key workers as well as for citizens.

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"Thankfully, my hospital trust provides us with well-being time and promotes positivity which has really helped the morale during times of burnout. The day is a good reminder for the hard work done but there needs to be more emphasis on the protection of our health and well-being.”

Ashleigh Burgess, a Support Worker:

“One of the most memorable days in my job was working with Val (changed name to protect identity). Val doesn’t leave home or go out into her garden or even to the edge of her driveway due to severe anxiety. After several months, she agreed to walk down to the end of the garden.

"The following week when I arrived she was stood in the garden smiling. Val had been going into her garden every day that week, and she was so happy to be able to enjoy this space again. It was so good to see her face this after struggling for so long. That day made me feel so grateful to work in this sector and be able to see the positive influence our support has on others.

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The tireless work of the NHS should not be forgotten, neither shouldn't the work done by the frontline workers working in the transport, care, and education sectors [Getty Images]

"Having a day to celebrate key workers is a positive thing and it unites people. However, token days of gratitude should not distract us from the lack of government funding and shortage of staff. Referrals come through every day. My colleagues are some of the most dedicated people I know and it’s hard seeing them struggling with the workload.”

Miriam Kuepper, a Teacher:

“I am now teaching in Switzerland and I was relieved when my students didn’t have to wear masks anymore. They were all much more motivated and it felt like normality was coming back.

"I think teachers should get paid more and they should be treated with more respect. Clapping does nothing to help us. In comparison with the UK, Switzerland gave me a very competitive salary (Swiss salaries are higher but I’m earning lots more than my mum already in the lowest teaching position).”

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Sonia Habib, a Diagnostic Radiographer:

“We go through many emotions and sometimes we need to emotionally support vulnerable patients. Recently, an elderly man had fallen at his care home and fractured his hip. He talked about his life and his time with his late wife while I was x-raying him. He said he hadn't talked about his wife in a while and he was very grateful to be having this conversation with me. It is nice to know that we mean a lot to patients even though we only get to see them for a short space of time.

"I appreciate the fact that there is a day to honour the work that the NHS does. However, with the pandemic and the backlog of patients, I would like the public to just be patient with NHS staff and recognise that there will be delays in treatments. People also need to use other services available such as walk-in centres or GP for non-emergencies to ensure that the numbers in A&E are reduced.”

Yasmin Al-Najar is a freelance journalist covering a variety of different subjects including human rights, law, culture, social issues and social justice. 

Follow her on Twitter: @YasminAlnajar97