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NURSES PAY DAY MAYDAY

17-03-2007

Villa boss Martin O'Neill is just one the famous footballing figures to have signed up to a campaign aimed at persuading Premiership soccer stars to hand over a day's pay for hard-up nurses. Dionne McCarthy tests the temperature of the great British public.

Noreena Hertz ‘May Day for Nurses' campaign to raise cash and awareness for UK nurses is under way and already many of the Premiership players, including Arsenal's Thierry Henry and Justin Hoyte, have agreed to donate a days pay. But just how worthy is this cause?

We are facing a massive shortage of trained nursing staff in this country, with 100,000 estimated to retire within the next 10 years while the government is continuing to cut the numbers of new recruits. In addition our nurses are massively undervalued, Noreena Hertz website tells us that,

'. in Birmingham some of the men who paint white lines in the middle of the road earn two and a half times more than some nurses.'

In this country we exploit those dedicating their lives to the caring professions. Becoming a nurse, carer or teacher for example is to most more than a job, its a calling, and therefore the government relies on the fact that these remarkable individuals will want to do the job regardless of pay - it's not about the money its about helping people.

But unfortunately this is wearing thin with those in the industry, and the consequences of low pay and poor benefits are potentially catastrophic.

Now I may be sounding melodramatic, but it is clear to anyone who picks up a paper or watches local news that there is a decline in the standards of medical care and teaching in this country, and I can't think of two more important areas in society. By failing to invest in what are the most fundamental and basic social needs, the future looks pretty bleak.

But despite these increasing problems is charity the answer?

The campaign is certainly raising awareness and this is obviously the main aim; Noreena Hertz isn't claiming that the money will solve any problems but rather that celebrity profile will help to highlight the problem and force the government to take action. In addition, the cash raised - potentially £1.5 million - will go into a nurses hardship fund for those truly ‘hard-up'!

So it all sounds rosy, but I've been asking around and surprisingly few of my mates think this is a winning idea.

The ever increasing pay packets of Premiership players is always a cause for hot debate, and with the recent ‘Cashley Cole' headlines it is clear to those of us living in the real world that their perception of money is perhaps a little distorted. So why shouldn't they hand over some of their hard-earned - okay then earned - cash for a good cause?

Well, maybe because we shouldn't be brow beating anybody into feeling an obligation to donate to any one cause, and that it should be the choice of the individual to give money to a charity if they so desire.

I mean, I hate being stopped in the street and guilt tripped into handing over my credit card details to a stranger and his bucket. There again, I find it hard to muster much sympathy for the poor, obscenely wealthy, footballers! Take their cash I say - a weeks pay for Ashley Cole!

Some people I spoke to argued that this is a government issue and not one that should be addressed by charity gimmicks and others felt that there are many, just as worthy causes that could have been highlighted.

The fact is no one campaign alone can address all global issues. What Noreena Hertz has managed to do is bring one very important and overlooked problem - that of dramatically underpaid nursing staff - back into the consciousness of the masses.

And by using celebrity status within the Premiership she is raising the profile of this issue whilst also cleverly drawing an ironic comparison between a day's pay for a footballer and that of a trained nurse.

It is most definitely a crazy world we live in where road painters earn twice that of life-savers, and footballers earn in a day more than many do in a year!

For more information go to http://www.maydayfornurses.com/

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