NURSES are under increasing pressure to leave their jobs due to years of public-sector funding cuts that have pushed them towards foodbanks and payday loan sharks, statistics revealed yesterday.
At least 1,200 calls were made to Royal College of Nursing (RCN) member support services from nurses desperately seeking help with their own welfare, sickness and disability problems between January and July this year, figures released by the union show.
Of these calls, 231 were made to ask for advice on managing debts and bankruptcy.
A couple who worked as psychiatric nurses were referred to a foodbank after trying to stretch £50 stretch to pay bills and mortgage repayments following a mistake by the Department for Work and Pensions, according to foodbank charity the Trussell Trust.
Their weekly benefits had been cut by £120 and the mother had become so malnourished that she could no longer breastfeed.
The couple said that the “foodbank saved [their] lives,” according to the charity.
RCN general secretary Janet Davies told the Guardian that some nurses turn to foodbanks and payday lenders even while working full-time.
Nurses were hit with a two-year pay freeze under the coalition government in 2010, followed by a 1 per cent cap on wage rises.
In June, Chancellor George Osborne announced another 1 per cent cap for public-sector workers over the next four years.
Years of effective pay cuts are leaving nurses feeling undervalued and could push some to taking on better-paid agency work or leaving the profession altogether, Ms Davies warned.
She said: “These huge agency bills, nurses going to foodbanks — this is not a great place to be.”
Hospitals, finding it difficult to fill rotas due to shortages of staff nurses, resort to hiring expensive agency labour to paper over the cracks in patient care.
Nursing agency Ambition 24 Hours says its day rate for a band-five general hospital nurse is £30 an hour, rising to £43 an hour for working on public holidays.
An NHS nurse on the same band is on a starting salary of £21,478, which equates to £10.98 an hour, according to figures on the RCN website.