NHS teams running out of patience, money — and new students
NURSES will take strike action if nothing is done about declining pay rates, the Royal College of Nursing warned yesterday as thousands rallied outside Parliament.
RCN chairman Nick Brown said “enough is enough” as he accused the government of taking the “political decision” to underfund the NHS.
Mr Brown paid tribute to those who had made their way to the capital from across the country.
“It’s been a fantastic summer,” he said, referring to rallies that have been held in hospitals and towns across Britain.
“This campaign shows what we can achieve when we work together. But for too long the nursing profession has been taken for granted and this cannot go on.”
He also warned the government that if it continues to ignore nurses over pay they would be left no option but to strike.
“I will stand with you in the ballot for strike action,” he said as he glanced towards Parliament.
Referring to the NHS staffing crisis, RCN general secretary Janet Davies said: “We know and understand that there are 40,000 less of you then there needs to be.”
The union says that the public-sector pay cap has seen nurses’ wages fall by 14 per cent over the past six years and warns that “nurses are leaving the profession in droves.”
Figures from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) revealed this year that more nurses and midwives quit the profession than joined for the first time in 2017. The number of people leaving has risen by 51 per cent over the last four years.
And the scrapping of the NHS Bursary, which supports nursing and other healthcare students, has seen a 23 per cent fall in the number applying to study.
But Ms Davies urged caution over reports that Theresa May was considering lifting the public-sector pay cap for the lowest-paid staff in the Autumn Budget.
“We’ve heard it all before and we won’t believe it until we see it,” she warned.
Nurses spoke about the impact of the wage freeze, with Amnina Ahmed saying she cannot afford to live in the capital and struggles to pay the rent for the “cramped” accommodation she lives in with her husband and child.
“After working long hours I shouldn’t worry about where I going to sleep before another 12-hour shift. Enough is enough, we are exhausted. But we can change this if we stand together.”
Actor and Labour supporter Tony Robinson told the rally that both of his parents had died after years of struggling with dementia.
“Who held my family together over those long, dark times,” he asked. “Nurses”
“You are the lifeblood of the NHS. You are the heart of the nation when we are suffering.
“It is you who care for us and let us lean on you. Yet it is you who the state has consistently slapped in the face for the last five years.
“It is you who are left exhausted, stressed and stony broke,” he told the rally. And he led a searing attack on the Tory government who he said “continues to lie to us, to cheat us and rob us.”
Reeling out his Blackadder character Baldrick’s catchphrase, he told nurses: “We have a cunning plan. Scrap the cap.”
Inside Parliament Prime Minister Theresa May also clashed with Jeremy Corbyn over nurses’ pay.
Ms May said her government valued all public-sector staff but slammed Mr Corbyn for “consistently asking for money to be spend on this, that and the other.”
Mr Corbyn hit back reminding Ms May of her £1 billion coalition deal with the DUP and said: “NHS staff are 14 per cent worse off than they were seven years ago. Is she really happy that NHS staff are using food banks?
“Warm words don’t pay food bills. Pay rises will help to do that. She must end the pay cap.”