Despite clear warnings from both staff and trade unions on the detrimental effect of the pay restraint on NHS staff, the government chose not to listen in their budget this week. Since 2010 our pay has been capped. With the rises in living costs, especially in London, it is estimated we have lost 14% in real terms pay.
NHS staff have been pushed into hardship. In a Unison survey of 21,000 health workers, 11% of respondents stated they had pawned their possessions. Moreover, the Royal College of Nursing reported a huge increase of nurses using food banks and working extra hours just to be able to pay the bills.
Recently the pay restraint was debated in parliament with cross party support for NHS staff after the petition I started gained more than 105,000 signatures. The Health Minister MP Phillip Dunne stated that in regards to the pay cap he 'hopes this is something there will be movement on in the future.'
With the NHS bursary scrapped we have seen a 23% drop in applications for nursing this year. Combine this with 40% of nurses heading to retirement, and a national nursing shortage of 24 000, it is clear to see nursing is heading for a 'perfect storm'. Morale is at rock bottom and staff are feeling demoralised.
Sadly nurses are leaving the profession with only 55% of registered nurses working within our NHS. The pay restraint alone is causing a recruitment and retention crisis and with this a knock on effect on patient care. If we have no nurses who is going to care for us when we need it the most? To lift the 1% cap makes clear and logical sense.
We have campaigned hard, with nurses and other staff sharing their stories about how the pay restraint is affecting them. How admirable and brave is it for someone to stand up and say they are using food banks just to get by? Or that they are working extreme numbers of hours every week simply to pay their rent? Being in hardship is often difficult to speak up about, and I am so proud of my colleagues for doing so.
Whilst the budget was announced I was out looking after patients in my role as a community nurse. I felt apprehensive that morning. Even though deep down i knew we would not be listened too, i had a small hope inside me something may have changed.
As the Chancellor MP Phillip Hammond spoke through the budget there was no recognition for nursing and NHS staff which left me feeling quite sad. One of my friends, a nurse, who has campaigned so hard with me, will be forced to sell her flat unless the pay cap is lifted. I know what the lack of consideration for our pay meant for her.
The government have left us feeling disheartened and deflated, but our campaign will continue and together we will fight to get fair pay for NHS staff. The story is different however with the Labour Party lead by Jeremy Corbyn who first and foremost committed in their shadow budget to giving the NHS the funding and care that it rightly deserves. Furthermore, Labour have prioritised scrapping the public sector pay cap and reinstating the student nurses bursaries, as they understand our NHS staff need nurturing. They know we are worth every penny.
• Danielle Tiplady is a nurse, Labour Party member and People’s Assembly Against Austerity activist. She will speaking at the event organised by the Labour Assembly Against Austerity on March 14 at 7pm at the Boothroyd Room at Portcullis House, they will host an event on Labour's Alternative to the Tory Austerity Budget with John McDonnell MP, Diane Abbott MP, Richard Burgon MP and many others. You can register in advance at https://bit.ly/mcdonnellonthebudget
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