Nursing and teaching bodies complain about MP's lockdown drink comments – BBC


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Claims nurses and teachers would drink in staff rooms during lockdown are "demoralising" and "wholly inaccurate", nursing and teaching bodies say.
Most nurses would spend their time cleaning uniforms and keeping away from family to protect them, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said.
Teaching leaders criticised the comments as "deeply insulting".
Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant told BBC News he knew of nurses and teachers who went for a quiet drink after shifts.
He said since his initial claims, five more people had contacted him to back up his claim.
He said he was keeping them anonymous.
"I am not condemning them for this but merely saying that the holier than thou attitude taken by some to score political points really doesn't cut it," he said.
The RCN said it wanted to formally complain while several teaching unions said they would be writing to the MP and Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi.
RCN general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen said she wanted to complain to the MP and also sent a copy of her letter to party chairman Oliver Dowden.
Ms Cullen criticised the MP's comments and said nurses and nursing support staff would, after finishing well past the end of their shifts, "get home, clean their uniforms, shower and collapse into bed" rather than "have a quiet one in the staff room".
"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.
An NHS worker from a medical admissions unit in Wakefield – who wished to remain anonymous – contacted the BBC to give their reaction stating Mr Fabricant "should walk in a nurse's shoes for a week".
They said: "I came home from work, went straight into the shower after every shift, disinfected my car daily. Kept well clear of all family and friends for months. Kept my washing separate to protect my family.
"I saw nurses going home crying. Exhausted. It was and still is relentless.
"So I hope they enjoyed their little party while we were sinking, not drinking."
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT school leaders' union, said in a letter to the education secretary Mr Fabricant's suggestion was "wholly inaccurate and deeply insulting" to teachers as a profession.
Head teachers had followed government guidance during the pandemic "meticulously" and Mr Zahawi himself had praised them for doing so, he added.
Mr Fabricant's comments were "as insulting as they are offensive", Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said.
Dame Alison Peacock, chief executive of the Chartered College of Teaching, said Mr Fabricant's comments were "naïve and wrong" and teachers should be being thanked instead "for everything they have done".
Teacher Gerard Coll told the BBC Mr Fabricant's "imbecilic" comments "undermines two professions".
Mr Coll, who works in Barry in South Wales, said he had been a lifelong Conservative voter but "never again" after what the MP had said.
"It's disgusting that a person in his position can use a tiny minority of people to taint whole professions," he said.
"You cannot compare it to what the prime minister has done. Is this how far the Tory party has fallen?"
Mr Fabricant's comments were also criticised by fellow Conservative MP Simon Hoare on Twitter who, responding to accounts from nurses and their families, said he had "seen no evidence of 'after shift party time'".
Mr Fabricant made the claims when reacting to Boris Johnson being fined for attending a birthday party thrown for him during a Covid lockdown.
He said the prime minister needed to think hard and apologise, although he did not think that Mr Johnson believed he was breaking the law.
"I think at the time just like many teachers and nurses who after a very, very long shift would tend to go back to the staff room and have a quiet drink which is more or less what he has done…. I don't think he thought he was breaking the law, but of course that doesn't make any sort of excuse…," he said.
In a later statement Mr Fabricant said a teacher and two nurses had told him they had some sympathy with the prime minister "as after an exhausting day at work they, too, had had a drink with their work mates".
He said: "They felt it safe as they had not mixed with others and, frankly, I cannot blame them."
However, the MP said he fully understood the anger of people who obeyed the rules, "couldn't visit relatives, and missed weddings and funerals".
"I was in lockdown in Lichfield all the time so I know exactly how they feel," he added.
"But Boris Johnson's mother died during lockdown too and he himself ended up in intensive care so he will also understand their anger."
People have contacted the BBC both supporting Mr Fabricant and criticising his claims.
One person, who said they had worked for the NHS for 30 years, claimed all hospitals were alcohol-free in staff rooms while a teacher said their school did not have alcohol on site even for leaving events.
But another claimed they had witnessed NHS staff breaking Covid rules by "visiting each other and their families" during lockdown.
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