Nurses nurses attack MP for comparing PM’s lockdown breach to ‘quiet drink’ at the end of a shift
Nurses have hit out against a Tory MP who claimed NHS staff had work drinks after shifts in lockdown to justify why Boris Johnson should not resign.
Some revealed how they took work breaks in their cars due to how strict they believed social distancing rules were at the time.
Another said: ‘You couldn’t even have a break with someone in the same room let alone a drink after work.’
A nursing union said that nurses were just happy to ‘get home, clean their uniforms, shower and collapse into bed’ after watching patients die during their shift.
The Prime Minister was fined by police yesterday for attending a party in the Cabinet room in breach of the lockdown rules he himself created.
A number of Tory MP’s leapt to Mr Johnson’s defense among them Michael Fabricant, the member for Lichfield, who told BBC yesterday that the Prime Minister acted as many nurses and teachers did during the pandemic.
‘I don’t think at any time he thought he was breaking the law… he thought just like many teachers and nurses who after a very long shift would go back to the staff room and have a quiet drink,’ he said.
Mr Fabricant then repeated his comments on Sky News when questioned by presenters.
‘I said I know of some nurses – quite understandably, and I’m not condemning them – who after a long day on the wards, absolutely exhausted – this is pre vaccination being available, pre the antiviral drugs being available – then going back to the staff room and having a quiet drink,’ he said.
‘Frankly, I can’t blame them. Would you call that a party?’
Last night nurses union Royal College of Nursing (RCN) issued a letter condemning the comments as both ‘demoralising’ and ‘factually incorrect’.
Scores of nurses also attacked Mr Fabricant over the comments on social media.
Robert Culshaw was among nurses dismayed by Tory MP Michael Fabricant comparison of Boris Johnson’s lockdown rules breach to nurses having a drink at the end of their shift
Other nurses, like health visitor Lynn Bates, said she like many others had not only obeyed the rules but made personal sacrifices to try and keep people safe
The RCN’s general secretary Pat Cullen blasted the comments in a letter addressed to Mr Fabricant and Chairman of the Conservative Party Oliver Dowden.
‘It is utterly demoralising – and factually incorrect – to hear you suggest that our diligent, safety critical profession can reasonably be compared to any elected official breaking the law, at any time,’ she said.
Ms Cullen added that wile she was ‘unsure’ how often Mr Fabricant spent in NHS frontline services during the pandemic, but said he was mistaken.
‘Throughout the pandemic – and still certainly, now – most days nurses and nursing support workers, when finally finishing a number of unpaid hours well past shift end, well get home clean their uniforms, shower and collapse into bed,’ she said.
Downing Street’s pandemic parties
May 15, 2020: THE GARDEN PARTY
A leaked photo showed Boris and Carrie Johnson with 17 senior Downing Street staff, sitting around cheese and wine. This took place during the first Covid lockdown at a time when only two people from different households could mix outdoors, socially distanced
May 20, 2020: BYOB BASH
A bombshell email from Mr Johnson’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, invited more than 100 staff to No10’s lavish gardens on May 20 to ‘make the most of the lovely weather’. He told guests to bring their own alcohol
JUNE 19 2020: ‘AMBUSHED BY CAKE’ 56th BIRTHDAY PARTY FOR BORIS
Downing Street has admitted staff ‘gathered briefly’ in the Cabinet Room in what was reportedly a surprise get-together for Mr Johnson organised by his now wife Carrie. Rishi Sunak has admitted he ‘popped in’ on his way to a meeting elsewhere in Downing Street.
Lulu Lytle, the interior designer behind lavish renovations of the Downing Street flat, briefly attended while undertaking work there.
It was after this gathering that Tory MP Conor Burns claimed Mr Johnson had been ‘ambushed by a cake’.
No 10 denied a report that, later the same evening, family and friends were hosted upstairs to celebrate the occasion.
November 13, 2020: LEE CAIN’S LEAVING DO
The PM allegedly made a leaving speech for his director of communications Lee Cain with a number of people gathered. The party is believed to have carried on upstairs that evening after Dominic Cummings unceremoniously walked out of Downing Street carrying a cardboard box.
November 27, 2020: CLEO WATSON’S LEAVING DO
Mr Johnson reportedly gives a speech at a packed leaving do for a ‘senior aide’. ’40 or 50 people’ were present. The aide was named as one newspaper as Cleo Watson, Dominic Cummings’ protégé.
December 15, 2020: CHRISTMAS QUIZ
Pictures obtained by the Sunday Mirror show Mr Johnson on a TV screen flanked by colleagues, one draped in tinsel and another wearing a Santa hat, in the No10 library. A source claimed many staff were huddled by computers in their Downing Street offices, conferring on questions and drinking alcohol while the quiz was taking place. The Mirror said a message sent by No10’s head of HR on the night of the quiz advised that those who had stayed behind to take part ‘go out the back’ when they left. The paper also unearthed the team names used that night, including ‘Professor Quiz Whitty’, ‘Rebels without a Claus’, and ‘Hands, Face, First Place’.
December 17, 2020: Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, charged with probing Partygate, hosted a party after sending an email out to around 15 people in his Private Office titled ‘Christmas Quiz’.
December 18, 2020: ANOTHER CHRISTMAS PARTY Downing Street staffers allegedly hold their own festive party, with the PM not in attendance. Group size is also given as 40 to 50.
April 16, 2021: JAMES SLACK’S LEAVING DO
Advisers and civil servants drank alcohol and danced in No10’s basement and gardens to mark the departure of Boris Johnson’s press chief James Slack and one of the Prime Minister’s personal photographers. Witnesses claimed 30 people attended the two gatherings, which were held in different parts of the Downing Street complex before combining in the garden, on the night before Prince Philip’s funeral.
May 26, 2021: A second, formal leaving event is held for James Slack inside No 10. More than a dozen allegedly attended.
‘Throughout the early pandemic, this was often alone, for the protection of others – kept away from family, friends and support networks.
‘At the end of one of the many hours days and years we have worked, since the recognition of the pandemic, I can assure you that none of us have sought to hang out and “have a quiet one in the staff room”‘.
Mr Fabricant’s comments were also met with ridicule and outrage from nurses on social media.
Many recalled how during the height of Covid NHS staff rooms were restricted to one or two people at a time and socially distanced.
And while there is no universal NHS policy on alcohol consumption at work, many trusts specifically forbid the consumption of alcoholic drinks by staff on their premises.
One intensive care nurse who works in the Oxford area, Robert Culshaw, wrote on Twitter how in just one morning alone he had to deal with four patients dying.
‘One morning during the First Wave, I had four patients die before I had my morning tea break,’ he said,
‘Did I go to the staff room and have a ‘quiet drink’? No, I had a quick drink of water and went back out, as all my colleagues did, again and again. F*** the Tories.’
Lynn Bates an NHS health visitor, a type of nurse that works in community settings, also criticised Mr Fabricant and other defenders of the Prime Minister.
‘I didn’t break the rules. I worked through the pandemic, didn’t see my son for 18 months, waved to my 90yr old mom through the window to keep her safe,’ she said.
‘How dare the Tories ‘forgive and forget’ and even suggest nurses/teachers were drinking in the staff room.’
Urology nurse Kelly Kusinski who works in Wolverhampton said she was ‘disgusted’ by the MP’s comments, recalling how nurses could not even take breaks with each other daring the pandemic.
‘Many nurses couldn’t use a staff room due to social distancing measures,’ she said.
‘They sat in their cars alone or a freezing cold tent. Many had only a few minutes break. Utterly disgusted with todays comments.’
Nicki Credland chair of the British Association of Critical Care Nurses said Mr Fabricant’s comments and apologies from the Prime Minister were not enough considering what nurses went through.
‘Trust me no healthcare staff “went back to the staff room for a quiet drink”,’ she said.
‘They were scared, in full PPE, protecting their patients, families and colleagues whilst those in power felt they were too important for the restrictions to apply to them. An apology is not enough.’
Nurse Alison Paterson recalled how during the pandemic: ‘You couldn’t even have a break with someone in the same room let alone a drink after work. Awful to defend this.’
David Nicol a nurse in Swansea said: ‘I was just happy to get back to my family after watching patients die on the Covid ward.’
Another nurse, Katy, lampooned Mr Fabricant’s comparison and excuses.
‘Let me get things straight, doffing PPE and locating an area to have a socially distanced break on your UNPAID allocated lunch break on a 12.5hr shift then donning your PPE again and going back to work in Covid ICU was nothing like having a party at Downing Street,’ she said.
Dr Anna Pigott a clinical director of child health in Staffordshire recalled seeing nurses taking their break in their cars to ‘escape the misery’.
‘When I helped out in adult ICU nurses went to their own cars to take breaks to escape the misery. I never saw anyone cracking open a bottle of wine at work,’ she said.
The Prime Minister, along with his wife Carrie, and Chancellor Rishi Sunak were sanctioned by police for breaking the law by attending events that took place while millions of ordinary Britons were obeying Covid the rules they set.
Last night Mr Johnson refused to step down insisting that at the time he had not believed he was breaking the rules – rules that he introduced.
All three are believed to have been fined £50 after police found they broke the law by attending a surprise birthday party in June 2020.
Urology specialist nurse Kelly Kusinski recalled how many nurses had to sit in car or tents on their short breaks, a far cry from Mr Fabricant’s end of shift drinks narrative
Another nurse, Alison Paterson, said the rules at the time meant staff couldn’t even share a break together and branded Mr Fabricant’s defense as ‘awful’
Nicki Credland chair of the British Association of Critical Care Nurses said it seemed like those in power felt they were ‘too important’ for the Covid rules to apply to them
Dr Anna Pigott a clinical director of child health in Staffordshire recalled seeing nurses take their breaks in their cars when she helped out in ICU during one of the Covid waves
First Tory MP calls for Boris Johnson to quit
After hours of Tory MPs lining up on social media to say the Prime Minister should stay in his job despite breaking the law, one finally called for him to quit today.
Amber Valley MP Nigel Mills said that Mr Johnson should consider his position in the wake of his Partygate shame.
The MP told BBC Radio Derby: ‘In all conscience I don’t think a prime minister can survive or should survive breaking the rules he put in place and he was on the TV every few nights, reminding us all that we should observe.
‘We have to have higher standards than that of people at the top. He has been fined, I don’t think his position is tenable, in my view.’
Mr Johnson may face more woe over the coming days, amid claims Sue Gray’s report into the Partygate scandal is due next week and will be ‘uncomfortable reading’. There is also speculation he may face further police fines linked to other parties.
Police revealed yesterday that at least 30 more fixed penalty notices were issued over the saga, with a spokesman for Number 10 confirming Mr Johnson, his wife, and the Chancellor were among the recipients.
Calls for their resignations swelled in the hours after the announcement, with Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford and his Scottish counterpart Nicola Sturgeon among those calling for the country’s two top parliamentarians to step down.
Mr Drakeford insisted ‘you can’t be a law-maker and a law-breaker’, while Ms Sturgeon said the ‘basic values of integrity and decency…demand that he go.’
But even some of the Prime Minister’s toughest critics said ousting him when Europe faced its gravest crisis since the Second World War would be a mistake.
And the police probe was branded a farce amid claims the lunchtime birthday party lasted less than ten minutes and the Prime Minister had only salad.
It was also said that the cake was left uneaten in a Tupperware container.
In a TV interview from Chequers, Mr Johnson offered a ‘full apology’ after becoming the first serving prime minister to be punished for breaking the law.
But he insisted it ‘didn’t occur’ to him that the gathering – in the Cabinet Room on June 19, 2020, to mark his 56th birthday – was a violation of coronavirus rules.
Ministers and backbenchers rallied around Mr Johnson – however he faces the threat of further fines for attending other lockdown get-togethers.
Another nurse, Katy, said a nursing shift was nothing like a Downing Street party.
Responding to Mr Fabricant’s comments nurse David Nicol said at the end of a shift after ‘watching patients die’ he was just happy to get back to his family
Boris Johnson today became the first serving Prime Minister in history to be penalised for law-breaking as No10 confirmed he will receive a fixed-penalty notice (FPN) for attending a Cabinet room birthday party arranged by his wife.