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SARAH VINE: Why do we spray Covid millions at everyone – but nurses?

Last July, in that sunny lull between lockdowns, the Government jubilantly announced that the number of nurses employed by the NHS had increased by 13,502, rising from 282,506 to 296,008. 

The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, was delighted.

‘This pandemic has shown how proud the entire country is of all our brave health and care workers, and what an essential role they play in society,’ he said, adding: ‘We made the commitment of 50,000 more nurses by end of this Parliament, and I’m determined we will meet it.’

Matt, my love, I hate to be a party-pooper, but if last week’s Budget is anything to go by I think you might struggle with that one. 

I know nursing is a vocation, and that people don’t go into it to get rich, but seriously. One per cent? That’s just rude.

Your average starting salary for a nurse is £24,907. And that’s after they’ve qualified.

Your average starting salary for a nurse is £24,907. And that’s after they’ve qualified, writes SARAH VINE. Pictured: A message released by the Royal College of Nursing following the Government’s announcement of only a one per cent pay rise for NHS workers

It wasn’t enough before the pandemic struck, and it’s certainly not enough now.

Especially when we know that one of the big problems with hospital capacity is not so much lack of bed space (we had all those shiny new Nightingales lying empty), but with the number of ICU nurses qualified to administer critical care.

Quite why the Government has chosen this particular hill to die on is beyond me. 

You don’t have to be a genius political strategist to see that at a time when people have been lining up in the street to applaud ‘our NHS heroes’, one per cent is an act of spectacular self-harm.

I hate to say it but I’m afraid the nursing unions have a point (well, not entirely – some are demanding a 12.5 per cent pay rise, which is obviously bonkers): it’s just not good enough. 

Nor is it good enough to defend this derisory amount – which in most cases will amount to under a fiver a week – by saying: ‘It’s what we think we can afford.’

Last July, in that sunny lull between lockdowns, the Government jubilantly announced that the number of nurses employed by the NHS had increased by 13,502, rising from 282,506 to 296,008. The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, was delighted

Last July, in that sunny lull between lockdowns, the Government jubilantly announced that the number of nurses employed by the NHS had increased by 13,502, rising from 282,506 to 296,008. The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, was delighted

It seems to me that when it comes to Covid, we can afford whatever we want to afford. So why spray money at practically everyone except the one group of people who have made a truly invaluable contribution.

Especially when we’ve just had a Budget in which the Chancellor seems to have kicked much-anticipated plans for an online sales tax – which would have finally ensured that companies such as Amazon pay their fair share – into the long grass and extended the furlough scheme (which to date has cost almost £50 billion) for millions of people.

I’m not saying it’s not a necessary measure, but I’m sure there are plenty of footsore nurses who would love to spend the next five months at home on 80 per cent of their salaries, regrouting their bathrooms or, more likely, simply just having a nice long lie-down in a darkened room. 

But they can’t because they’ve got to be out there, tending to the sick and dying and, let’s not forget, risking contagion. Although they can now have the jab, and should. But still.

The other thing, of course, is that we don’t want nurses migrating to the private sector. Which they will if we don’t pay them enough. 

Because that means the NHS losing valued staff – and having to pay through the nose for agency nurses to make up the shortfall.

In Scotland, health and social care workers were awarded a one-off bonus of £500 each last year, at a cost of approximately £180 million. If the Government really doesn’t want to review the pay rise, it could do the same.

To extend something similar to NHS nurses alone would amount to slightly less than that, around £150 million.

Half, as it happens, of what Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, makes in a single day. 

My daughter pointed out to me the other day that she was 16 when we first went into lockdown, and she’ll be 18 by the time we finally emerge. From child to adult.

A sobering thought.

The fake news we can’t ignore 

Have you tried that MYHeritage app yet, the one with the ‘deep nostalgia’ function that brings lost relatives to life? It is the spookiest thing ever.

I did it on a picture of my late grandmother, Ruth, and it really did look like a short video of her. 

That, combined with the ‘deepfake’ videos of Tom Cruise circulating on the internet last week (not the actual Tom Cruise, but the work of a 31-year-old Belgian called Chris Ume), is a reminder of how powerful and deceptive this technology is. 

Who knows what harm it could do in the wrong hands – and yet currently there are no specific laws around its use in the UK.

We have an opportunity here to lock the stable door before the horse has bolted. For once, let’s not ignore it.

It’s true that £200,000 does seem like rather a large decorating bill for No 10. 

That said, I’ve never really understood why everyone thinks the Prime Minister should live in some sort of student bedsit and eat out of a skip. 

He works 24/7 for about £150,000 a year, which, when you do the maths, amounts to about 17p an hour. 

Surely he deserves a couple of nice lampshades and the occasional takeaway?

Jeremy Paxman has just revealed that he has a habit of taking out squirrels with his air rifle while perched on his loo at home in Henley-on-Thames. 

I don’t know why, but this really made my day. It’s just peak Paxman, isn’t it? 

Like discovering that Fiona Bruce actually purrs, or that Huw Edwards’s hair has its own agent.

Former It Girl Lady Victoria Hervey believes the Covid vaccine is all a plot by Bill Gates to depopulate the planet and says she would never have it. 

And yet in the same breath she cheerfully admits to having Botox. 

To recap: no to a vaccine that will save thousands of lives; yes to injecting poison into your forehead. Genius.

Former It Girl Lady Victoria Hervey believes the Covid vaccine is all a plot by Bill Gates to depopulate the planet and says she would never have it

Former It Girl Lady Victoria Hervey believes the Covid vaccine is all a plot by Bill Gates to depopulate the planet and says she would never have it

The other day I decided to rewatch Kind Hearts And Coronets (one of my favourite Alec Guinness films) on Sky. 

Up pops a warning informing me: ‘This film has outdated attitudes, language and cultural depictions.’ Dur. Why else do you think I was watching it? 

I think my husband is the only man alive who, when he reads that Tom Jones had an affair with Mary Wilson, says: ‘I didn’t know he knew Harold Wilson’s wife. 

‘Silent or silenced?’ intones Oprah Winfrey in one of the many clips released of tonight’s ‘bombshell’ interview with Harry and Meghan, the implication (aided and abetted by melodramatic music and Meghan’s Mona Lisa smile) being that the Queen is some kind of sinister Don Corleone figure, directing operations from her Windsor bunker.

But from what I can see, Meghan has the protection of the most powerful cartel on the planet, aka the Hollywood mafia: Hillary Clinton, Melinda Gates, the Clooneys, the Obamas.

'Silent or silenced?' intones Oprah Winfrey in one of the many clips released of tonight's 'bombshell' interview with Harry and Meghan

‘Silent or silenced?’ intones Oprah Winfrey in one of the many clips released of tonight’s ‘bombshell’ interview with Harry and Meghan

They all seem to be falling over themselves to pledge allegiance to her.

Are they really that afraid of a white-haired nonagenarian? Or are they just getting in early on Meghan’s inevitable bid for the White House?

The worst thing about this Oprah interview is that it appears to be two hours long. Two hours of listening to those two moaning on about life in a gilded cage.

Thanks very much, but the trailer will do me.

Not sure about the Government’s masterplan to get secondary school pupils to do their own lateral flow tests. 

They do know they’re dealing with teenagers here, don’t they? Literally the most irresponsible, silly and unreliable species on the planet.

I wouldn’t even trust them to flush the loo properly, let alone carry out a semi-medical procedure and ‘self-report’ to test and trace.


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