Michael Fabricant, MP for Lichfield, made the comments after the prime minister and chancellor were fined for breaching Covid rules.
Nurses and teachers have responded with fury after a Tory MP compared parties held at Downing Street in lockdown to hospital and school staff having “a quiet drink” at work.
The claims, made by Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant, have outraged nurses and teachers across the UK and have been firmly denied by the industry bodies in letters published yesterday evening.
“There isn’t a site in England that would allow alcohol on the premises for any professional to consume during work hours”, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) told Fabricant.
“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.”
The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) called the comments “deeply insulting”, and called on education secretary Nadhim Zahawi to “set the record straight”.
“These latest comments by Mr Fabricant have done enormous damage and are entirely unjustified”, said NAHT leader Paul Whiteman.
“I cannot overstate the hurt and anger these comments have caused”, he added.
“I think that at the time he thought just like many teachers and nurses who after a very, very long shift would go back to the staff room and have a quiet drink, which is more or less what he has done.”
Nurses on the frontlines of the pandemic remember the period very differently:
“Remember when adult hospital’s [sic] were so full that dying covid adults were transferred to the paediatric hospitals?”, wrote one paediatric nurse.
“My paediatric icu colleagues cared and looked after these sick adults without complaint. I’m furious.”
Fellow Tory MP Simon Hoare joined those condemning the claim, writing:
“Those key workers were doing their jobs eg caring for the sick and educating our children. I’ve seen no evidence of “after shift party time”. They were all too knackered. Whataboutery is bad enough but unsubstantiated offensive whataboutery can go hang”
The RCN represents around half a million nurses and health workers, who it says are “understaffed, underpaid, overworked, exhausted, burnt out and still holding it together while doing the best we can for patients.”
“I can assure you that none of us have sought to hang out and ‘have a quiet one in the staff room’,” wrote RCN.
“Most days, nurses and nursing support workers, when finally finishing a number of unpaid hours well past shift end, will get home, clean their uniforms, shower and collapse into bed”, it explained.
“Throughout the early pandemic, this was often alone, for the protection of others – kept away from family, friends and support networks.”
Similarly, Whiteman told Zahawi that “school leaders followed guidelines meticulously”, pointing out that many teachers “had to eat lunch alone in their own classrooms” in order to do so.
“Throughout the pandemic, school leaders and other educational professionals have worked tirelessly to implement ever-changing government guidance”, he wrote.
“They supported the most vulnerable, ensured that children were fed, and effectively reinvented how education was delivered in a matter of weeks.”
“I assume that given your knowledge of what actually happened in schools during the national lockdowns, that you will be looking forward to set the record straight publicly and to address what is frankly a slur on the teaching profession.”