EIGHT nurses every day seek urgent help from a support line to cope with the cost of living, new figures released by the RCN revealed yesterday, after Theresa May was challenged on TV over nurses’ use of foodbanks.
The Royal College of Nursing released this shocking figure alongside its General Election manifesto. This calls on all party leaders to commit to safe levels of staff in the NHS to guarantee safe patient care after research showed 24,000 nursing jobs are currently vacant. It asks politicians to show Britain’s nursing workforce greater appreciation and to pledge to increase nursing pay levels in line with inflation following a real-terms cut of 14 per cent since 2010.
RCN analysis shows that average nurse salaries would be £3,000 to £4,000 higher if government pay awards had risen with inflation. All RCN members working in the UK are to vote this month on whether to take industrial action over pay.
The RCN will announce the result of the on-line poll at its annual congress in Liverpool on 13 May and has said that if there is a vote in favour it will immediately proceed to an official strike ballot. The RCN’s advice line received 510 calls seeking financial support over 65 working days in the October-December 2016 period.
Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: ‘At the weekend, Theresa May failed to acknowledge that nursing staff are forced to use foodbanks. ‘But on her watch, eight nurses every single day are seeking urgent help just to get by. Even those in full-time work can’t make ends meet.
‘Nurses should not have to fund the NHS deficit from their own pay packets. After the election, for the sake of patient safety, the government must scrap the pay cap and fill the tens of thousands of vacant jobs.’
• The GMB and Unison yesterday backed a Labour pledge to hold a moratorium on the Tory STP NHS cuts and hospital closure plans. Rehana Azam, GMB National Secretary for Public Services, said: ‘GMB welcomes Labour’s pledge to halt the Conservative cuts and closures to hospitals.
‘STP is a drastic reorganisation that is seeing our health service cut to the bone – opening it up to privatisation under the sinister guise of efficiency savings. Our NHS is heading for disaster and we need proper funding to avert it – not more top-down reorganisation. Stopping the government’s cruel public sector pay pinch would be a good place to start.’
Unison head of health Christina McAnea said: ‘NHS staff want to see better planning of health and social care, but the current plans were doomed from the start. Without proper health funding, and in the absence of any attempt to involve the public, patients and the workforce, STPs were always going to struggle to be seen as anything other than simply cover for cuts to services and jobs.’