A nurse who cared for the prime minister when he was seriously ill with coronavirus has resigned, hitting out at the government’s 1% pay rise offer and what she says is its lack of respect for the profession.
Jenny McGee, who looked after Boris Johnson in intensive care at St Thomas’ Hospital in April 2020, said: “We’re not getting the respect and now pay that we deserve.”
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“I’m just sick of it. So I’ve handed in my resignation,” she added.
Ms McGee, who is originally from New Zealand, made the comments as she spoke about her experience of caring for Mr Johnson as he battled COVID-19.
“All around him there was lots and lots of sick patients, some of whom were dying,” she told a Channel 4 documentary called The Year Britain Stopped.
“I remember seeing him and thinking he looked very, very unwell. He was a different colour, really.
“It’s so surreal, that’s the prime minister. They are very complicated patients to look after and we just didn’t know what was going to happen.”
In the programme, which will be shown on 24 May, Ms McGee said it was a “weird” time.
The PM praised Ms McGee and nurse Luis Pitarma after he was released from the London hospital, saying: “The reason in the end my body did start to get enough oxygen was because for every second of the night, they were watching.”
That July, Ms McGee said she was asked to take part in a “clap for carers” event at a Downing Street garden party.
She had been invited to Number 10 along with another nurse to celebrate the 72nd anniversary of the NHS.
“It would have been a really good photo opportunity,” she said about being asked to join the clap event.
“You know, kind of like Boris and his NHS friends, but I wanted to stay out of it.”
“Lots of nurses felt that the government hadn’t led very effectively, the indecisiveness, so many mixed messages,” she added.
“It was just very upsetting.
“Yes, we have put ourselves on the line and we have worked so incredibly hard, and there’s a lot of talk about how we’re all heroes and all that sort of stuff.
“But at the same time, I’m just not sure if I can do it. I don’t know how much more I’ve got to give to the NHS.
“We’re not getting the respect and now pay that we deserve.
“I’m just sick of it. So I’ve handed in my resignation.”
In a statement released through Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, Ms McGee confirmed her departure.
“After the toughest year of my nursing career, I’m taking a step back from the NHS but hope to return in the future,” she said.
“I’m excited to start a nursing contract in the Caribbean, before a holiday back home in New Zealand later in the year.
“I’m so proud to have worked at St Thomas’ Hospital and to have been part of such a fantastic team.”
A Number 10 spokesperson said health service staff had “gone above and beyond” during the pandemic and “this government will do everything in our power to support them”.
“We are extremely grateful for the care NHS staff have provided throughout the pandemic in particular,” they said.
“That is why they have been exempted from the public sector wide pay freeze implemented as a result of the difficult economic situation created by the pandemic.
“At the same time we have invested £30m to support staff mental health and are expanding the number of places available for domestic students at medical schools in England to continue expanding our workforce.”