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Nurse who cared for Boris Johnson in hospital resigns over ‘lack of respect’ for NHS

·3-min read
Boris Johnson with Jenny McGee as the NHS celebrates its 72nd anniversary (Andrew Parsons/No10 Downing Street)
Boris Johnson with Jenny McGee as the NHS celebrates its 72nd anniversary (Andrew Parsons/No10 Downing Street)

A nurse who cared for Boris Johnson when he was suffering from severe Covid-19 has resigned over the “lack of respect” the government is showing the NHS and healthcare workers.

Jenny McGee, who looked after the prime minister for two days when he was in intensive care in St Thomas’ Hospital in London, said: “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.”

Her remarks about pay refer to the government’s proposed 1 per cent pay rise for NHS staff.

Ms McGee also criticised the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.

“Lots of nurses felt that the government hadn’t led very effectively – the indecisiveness, so many mixed messages. It was just very upsetting,” she said.

She made the remarks in a Channel 4 documentary The Year Britain Stopped, which will be broadcast on Monday.

The former nurse described her first sight of the prime minister in hospital, saying: “All around him there was lots and lots of sick patients, some of whom were dying. I remember seeing him and thinking he looked very, very unwell. He was a different colour, really.”

Watch: PM says UK is 'most positive' country in terms of COVID vaccine uptake

Ms McGee, from Invercargill in New Zealand, was one of two nurses thanked publicly by Mr Johnson after he was treated for Covid-19.

When he was discharged on 12 April, the prime minister praised both Ms McGee and Luis Pitarma, from Aveiro in Portugal, for helping save his life. “I can’t thank them enough,” he said of the doctors and nurses at St Thomas’.

Ms McGee said when she looks back on the period she spent with with Mr Johnson she thinks it was a “weird” time.

She said she had declined to take part in a “clap for carers” event at a Downing Street garden party last July. She and a colleague had been invited by the prime minister to celebrate 72 years of the NHS.

“It would have been a really good photo opportunity. You know, kind of like Boris and his NHS friends, but I wanted to stay out of it,” she said.

“Lots of nurses felt that the government hadn’t led very effectively: the indecisiveness, so many mixed messages.

“It was just very upsetting.”

In a statement released through Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, Ms McGee said: “After the toughest year of my nursing career, I’m taking a step back from the NHS but hope to return in the future.

“I’m excited to start a nursing contract in the Caribbean, before a holiday back home in New Zealand later in the year.

“I’m so proud to have worked at St Thomas’ Hospital and to have been part of such a fantastic team.”

A No 10 spokesperson said: “Our NHS staff have gone above and beyond over the past year, and this government will do everything in our power to support them.

“We are extremely grateful for the care NHS staff have provided throughout the pandemic in particular.

“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.

“At the same time, we have invested £30m to support staff mental health, and are expanding the number of places available for domestic students at medical schools in England to continue expanding our workforce.”

Watch: What UK government COVID-19 support is available?

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