Case study NHS pay dispute: ‘We almost went under, my wife was forced into early retirement to keep us afloat’

Gary Watts (second left) with fellow radiographers picketing at the Royal Free Hospital. Picture: Po

Gary Watts (second left) with fellow radiographers picketing at the Royal Free Hospital. Picture: Polly Hancock. - Credit: Polly Hancock

Radiographer Gary Watts took to the picket line along with colleagues on Monday in protest over the government’s refusal to approve a recommended 1 per cent payrise for NHS staff. Here Gary explains how a real terms decrease in wages has left his family close to going under.

For 21 years Gary Watts, 57, has been a radiographer at Barnet and Chase Farm Hospital and has worked hard to support his family. Before that he was a paramedic for nine years.

The father-of-three’s wife is a nurse who has worked for the NHS all her life.

This year, to avoid falling into debt, the couple made the decision that Gary’s wife should take early retirement.

“Basically we couldn’t make ends meet and over the last few years our savings have all disappeared,” he explained.

“We used to visit in-laws once a year in Ireland, go on a winter skiing holiday and a summer camping holiday in France.

“Last year we had a week in a caravan in Cornwall.

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“That’s the sort of thing that’s changed.

“My wife took early retirement this year. She took a lump sum so we could clear the mortgage because we were going to go under.

“We didn’t know how we were going to survive without getting into debt.

“She retired three years earlier than she wanted to, but at least we had a way out of it; a lot of people haven’t.”

Without the pressure of mortgage payments on the family home in Hoddesdon, the couple hope their financial worries will ease.

Their children have been honest that they would not consider following their parents into careers in the NHS.

“Looking towards the future, the government needs to encourage the brightest of students to take up health care professions,” said Gary. “My own children have said it: ‘Why would we take a degree and work in the health service when we can earn far more somewhere else’.”

Related links:

- Radiographers at Royal Free and Whittington hospitals strike for first time since 1980s