Applause is lauded at NHS workers; ideas for re-compensation; a daily service supplement; an increased hourly rate; even a medal for working during the pandemic. Many of us in the NHS work shifts - day and night - throughout the year. It is not just a virus that killing us, our shift work is too. The World Health Organisation declared in 2007 that shift work is probably carcinogenic (Straif et al 2007 #1). Studies such as Gu et al (2015 #2) have shown us that shift work, especially nights increases our risks of cardio vascular disease, mental health issues, lower immunity, cancer and ultimately our mortality.
Rather than working our life away for minimal financial compensation would we not rather have our life given back? Striking a better work / life balance: a reduced working week without being financially penalised.
Retention of staff is consistently an issue with the NHS. Allowing us more of our life back could help alleviate this. To cover an already under staffed NHS we can provide those unemployed with jobs and training in the many different areas.
The NHS was already at a crisis point before the covid-19 pandemic. Our capacity to provide services not meeting the demand of our society and our patient’s needs. We need to invest in our healthcare workforce as well as our healthcare infrastructure. These improvements should be for everyone and available to everyone. This provides stimulus for our economy and purpose / employment. Jobs are available to many: ambulance services, engineers, porters, chefs, scientists, support workers, technicians, specialists, doctors, nurses, mental health practitioners, cleaners, receptionists, pharmacists, administrators, drivers, procurement, builders, maintenance, innovators, programmers to name but a few. Healthcare affects every arena of life (personal, work, housing, education, food). We should aspire to create the best healthcare system we can. We should base this healthcare on mutual aid and cooperation between NHS services and between different countries.
We are living and working through unprecedented times. The risks are high now, but they were high before the pandemic. Do not negotiate with our lives and let us work less without compromise.
Straif, Kurt, Robert Baan, Yann Grosse, Béatrice Secretan, Fatiha El Ghissassi, Véronique Bouvard, Andrea Altieri, Lamia Benbrahim-Tallaa, Vincent Cogliano, and WHO International Agency For Research on Cancer Monograph Working Group. 2007. "Carcinogenicity of Shift-Work, Painting, and Fire-Fighting." Lancet Oncology, the 8 (12): 1065-1066.
Gu, Fangyi, MD, ScD, Jiali Han PhD, Francine Laden ScD, An Pan PhD, Neil E. Caporaso MD, Stampfer, Meir J., MD, DrPH, Kawachi, Ichiro, MD, PhD, et al. 2015. "Total and Cause-Specific Mortality of U.S. Nurses Working Rotating Night Shifts." American Journal of Preventive Medicine 48 (3): 241-252.