Peter Shreeve, IW National Education Union:

As I age, I increasingly discover friends and acquaintances accessing comprehensive NHS support.

In recent weeks, speaking with recipients of hip and knee replacements and various operations needing several days recuperation in a hospital bed, what have I learned?

The messages communicated by these patients was twofold. First, staff were wonderful, caring and put all at their ease. Second, staff were always incredibly busy, running around juggling their workload.

This was my own personal experience last Tuesday, the day before the junior doctor’s strike. Those in the waiting room were informed of staff illness and that there would be a delay, but the eye procedures would definitely go ahead. Tea, coffee and reassurance was quickly shared.

After more than an hour later, I found myself laid out on as table undergoing what the staff called a “minor routine” procedure. Despite feeling somewhere between “anxious and terrified”, my response: “It may be routine for you, but it certainly isn’t for me!”

Thinking about the junior doctor’s action on the following day, I remain sympathetic. Why?

Staff retention is at the core. The annual General Medical Council ‘Workforce Report’ published in November says: “There are increasing numbers of doctors who intend to leave or reduce their hours… There is no room for complacency and there must be continued focus on improving retention.” 

Stagnating living standards for the majority of the population means accessing good health provision is even more vital.

These professionals have worked diligently in extremely difficult times. They deserve better.

Pay is at the core of this retention crisis, as it is in so many professions. 

Health is key to any credible plan to deliver good educational and life outcomes to all and as such must be addressed by our politicians.