The organiser of Manchester city centre-based protest over the proposed 1% pay rise for NHS workers has been handed a £10,000 fine by police.
After receiving reports that about 40 people were in attendance at a demonstration in St Peter’s Square at around noon yesterday, officers from Greater Manchester Police arrived at the scene to find that the demonstrators had gathered “in contravention of current lockdown legislation”.
Public gatherings are banned under coronavirus (COVID-19) rules, and police said most demonstrators dispersed after officers asked them to leave.
In a statement issued yesterday afternoon, GMP confirmed that the organiser of the protest – a 61-year-old woman who works for the NHS – has now been fined the maximum £10,000, with another NHS worker, aged 65, also arrested for failing to provide details after initially refusing to leave.
The force then said the latter was de-arrested and fined £200 after complying.
Speaking on the demonstration, Superintendent Caroline Hemingway said: “With the positive step of schools reopening tomorrow, it is vital that people continue to follow Government legislation on social distancing and avoid gathering illegally in large numbers.
“Regardless of one’s sympathies for a protest’s cause, we would ask the public to maintain social distancing and follow legislation to prevent a rise in infections and provide the best possible chance of a further easing of restrictions in the weeks to come.
“We sought to engage with and peaceably disperse those attending this afternoon’s protest, explaining that the gathering was in contravention of government lockdown rules.
“Unfortunately officers were met with a degree of non-compliance and it was therefore necessary to enforce issue FPNs.”
The aforementioned arrests and incidents of fining that occurred at Sunday’s demonstration have since gone on to receive backlash and criticism from members of the public, who have taken to social media to express their thoughts.
An opinion poll – published in The Observer newspaper – also found that more than 70% of people (72%) think the pay rise on offer is too low, while a fifth (20%) think it is right.
Yesterday’s demonstration comes as the government faces ongoing backlash after giving evidence on Thursday to the NHS pay-review body – which looks at nearly 1.5 million people, including nurses and health assistants, but not doctors, dentists and some senior staff, who have their own pay bodies or agreements – and suggesting a 1% pay rise for 2021-22, by citing the “uncertain” financial situation.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) – which has called for a 12.5% pay increase for nurses – said that a 1% pay rise would only amount to an extra £3.50 a week in take home pay for an experienced nurse.
The RCN Council set up its £35 million strike fund on Friday in order to have the finances available to its members should they wish to take action.
“In setting up this fund, the RCN will create the UK’s largest union strike fund overnight,” said a statement.
Dame Donna Kinnair – Chief Executive and General Secretary at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) – has condemned health minster Nadine Dorries’ claim that 1% was “the most” the government could afford, and called the offer “pitiful and bitterly disappointing”.
Following the mounting backlash, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has defended the proposed 1% NHS pay rise – branded a “slap in the face” by the RCN” – during a visit to a vaccination centre in North London yesterday, stating: “What we have done is try to give them as much as we can at the present time.
“The independent pay review body will obviously look at what we’ve proposed and come back [and] don’t forget that there has been a public sector pay freeze, we’re in pretty tough times.”
The pay-review body will take evidence from other groups before making its recommendation around May.
Amber heat-health warning issued as temperatures drop across the North West
An amber health warning has been issued for the North West and other regions as temperatures continue to drop across the country.
With temperatures expected to reach as low as -5C by Friday, 29 November, the Met Office and UKHSA pushed out an amber heat-health alert on Wednesday, with the elderly, clinically vulnerable and the health sector in general said to be those most at risk.
Although the freezing weather obviously has the potential to affect everyone — with the likes of the North East and Northern Ireland having already been given a yellow weather warning as well — amber heat-health warnings are deemed to require an ‘enhanced response‘ as they are likely to significantly impact “across the whole health service” and possibly other sectors too.
Under the relatively new CHA (cold-health alert) system, anything beyond a yellow level alert means that it is expected that there will be increased use of healthcare services by vulnerable populations and an increase in risk to health to individuals over the age of 65, those with pre-existing health conditions, including respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and other vulnerable groups like rough sleepers.
As well as the Met Office offering their verdict, the UKHSA’s Head of Extreme Events and Health Protection, Dr Agostinho Sousa, said: “With a risk of widespread overnight frosts and some snow across the country this week, it’s important to check in on the wellbeing of those most vulnerable to the cold.
“Cold weather can have a serious impact on health, particularly older people, and those with pre-existing health conditions, as it increases the risks of heart attacks, strokes and chest infections.
“If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over the age of 65, it is important to try and heat the rooms where you spend most of your time in[doors], such as your living room or bedroom.”
For those considered to be at risk during this cold snap and amber-heat health warning, the official government-sanctioned advice is that if you can’t heat all the rooms in your home, it is important to heat the rooms you spend the (i.e. living room in the day and bedroom before going to sleep) to at least 18 degrees if possible.
They also recommend wearing a few thin layers instead of one thick layer, as the former is better at trapping heat than just one big jumper etc.
Other advice on how to stay safe during these colder periods includes stocking up on food and medicine, keeping windows closed and reducing draughts at home, as well as getting vaccinated against flu and COVID-19.
If you or someone you know is in need of help, you can get in touch with the NHS on 111 and if it is an emergency please call 999 immediately.
Man jailed for raping and assaulting two women as they slept
A man has been jailed after being convicted of raping and sexually assaulting two women while they were sleeping.
Alan Pickering, 40, from Wirral, has been sentenced to 15 years behind bars as well as four years on an extended license.
During the trial at Liverpool Crown Court, the court heard that his victims had woken up to find that Pickering was raping them, with neither giving their consent.
Both victims then repeatedly asked him to stop, but he continued to assault them.
His crimes took place between January 2004 and July 2020 on ‘multiple occasions’ in the Chester and Wirral areas.
Pickering, of Procter Road in Rock Ferry, had previously been found guilty of five counts of rape and three counts of sexual assault by penetration following an earlier trial.
The latest allegations against the man came to light in 2020 after a report was made to social services at Cheshire West and Chester, which was passed on to Cheshire Police.
In addition to his prison sentence, Pickering has also been ordered to sign the sex offenders register for life, and handed indefinite restraining orders against the victims.
Following the sentencing, Detective Constable Peel, who led the investigation, said: “Firstly I would like to commend the victims for the courage and bravery that they have shown throughout this case.
“I know that Pickering’s offending has had a hugely traumatic impact on the victims and having to give evidence during the trial was not easy for them.
“But thanks to the statements they gave, and the evidence we gathered, the jury we’re able to see through his lies and he is now finally being held accountable for his actions.”
Detective Constable Peel added: “Nobody should have to experience what these women have been though and if anything can be achieved from this case, I hope that it encourages other victims of sexual offences to come forward and report them to us.
“We treat all reports extremely seriously, and any allegation will be thoroughly investigated, with the wishes and needs of the victim as our main priority.
“Victims should never feel ashamed to talk about what they have been subjected to. They will receive the help and support they need from our specialist officers, as well as from other support agencies we work alongside, and all victims of sexual offences have the right to anonymity.”