A nurse credited with helping to save British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s life last year has quit the UK’s National Health Service over what she described as the government’s lack of “respect” for frontline staff.
- Boris Johnson released a video thanking Jenny McGee after he was discharged from hospital following his battle with COVID-19
- Ms McGee said she would take up a nursing contract in the Caribbean, before returning to New Zealand later in the year for a holiday
- Mr Johnson’s office said the government would “do everything in our power to support” National Health Service workers
New Zealand-born Jenny McGee was one of two intensive-care nurses who gave Mr Johnson round-the-clock treatment in St Thomas’ Hospital in central London when he was struck down with COVID-19.
Mr Johnson said later that he only pulled through thanks to their care — even releasing a video thanking them by name — but his government has since faced fury from nurses for offering a pay rise of just 1 per cent.
“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,” Ms McGee said in a documentary about coronavirus in the UK, due to air on British television station Channel 4 on Monday.
She refused to take part in a Downing Street photo opportunity last July, noting: “Lots of nurses felt that the government hadn’t led very effectively, the indecisiveness, so many mixed messages. It was just very upsetting.”
A worse wave of the pandemic hit Britain in the winter months, and Ms McGee said the situation on her wards leading up to Christmas “was just a cesspool of COVID”.
“At that point, I don’t know how to describe the horrendousness of what we were going through,” she said.
‘Toughest year’ of nursing career
Keir Starmer, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, said Ms McGee’s resignation was a “devastating indictment of Boris Johnson’s approach to the people who put their lives on the line for him and our whole country”.
Mr Johnson’s office made no direct reference to the remarks in response but said the government would “do everything in our power to support” National Health Service (NHS) workers.
“We are extremely grateful for the care NHS staff have provided throughout the pandemic in particular,” a spokeswoman 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.”
St Thomas’ Hospital issued a statement on behalf of Ms McGee, in which she said she was “excited to start a nursing contract in the Caribbean, before a holiday back home in New Zealand later in the year”.
“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.