Nurses and doctors should be compensated for risking their lives on the frontline
They are the foot soldiers in our fight against a lethal epidemic. When Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that some 18,700 final-year student nurses would don their protective kit and aid their senior colleagues in battle, he said that they would “move to the frontline.”
They are heroes who are saving lives, politicians tell us. Military language has been central to the government’s response to coronavirus. Now it’s time for this fighting talk to be reinforced by a financial move that demonstrates our gratitude: give hospital workers hazard pay.
When American soldiers are sent to combat zones, they are given danger pay to compensate for the additional risks placed on their lives. Likewise, when the British Armed Forces deploy overseas, soldiers, sailors and airmen receive an operational allowance, which fulfils a similar role.
Governments award these financial top-ups because they know that they are asking ordinary people to do extraordinary things which will put them in harm’s way. Nurses, doctors and other vital NHS workers are demonstrably deserving of the same — we are asking them to go above and beyond what is typically expected from their day-to-day shifts in exceptionally dangerous circumstances.
In many ways they are more deserving of hazard pay as they’re not only risking their own lives, their families’ health is affected too. Every time they go to work to help save lives, they increase the likelihood of a partner or parent contracting Covid-19.
Taking into account the relative unhealthiness of the average Briton and the effect these comorbidities have on the likelihood of grave and fatal suffering, many frontline health workers have been forced into isolating themselves from their families. Many have made tough financial decisions to send them away from their homes, with several reports of nurses spending their pay on rent to keep their loved ones safe.
One Canadian soldier-turned-lawyer said: “Their risk of fatality or illness is as big, or greater, than what it was when we deployed overseas to Yugoslavia, Africa or Afghanistan.”
Trump feels similarly. When asked by a reporter over hazard pay for health workers, he said “I like it. They’re like warriors.”
Much fuss has been made over Twitter personalities slating Tories for joining in with the NHS clapping craze while supposedly hiding their inadequate political support for the service. They’ve got a point. Even Hancock, who has found plenty of time to launch attacks on Premier League footballers, said that “now is not the time to discuss a pay rise for nurses.”
He’s wrong. We must sufficiently compensate frontline health workers for their sacrifices and stresses because it’ll help us win the war.