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Nurse pay: ‘I shouldn’t have to work multiple jobs to pay my bills’

Nurse speaks of her fear of getting through winter, working up to three extra shifts a month and applying for another job just to make ends meet

Nurse speaks of her fear of getting through winter, working up to three extra shifts a month and applying for another job just to make ends meet

A nurse has told of her desperate struggle to pay the bills as gas and electricity prices rise – picking up agency shifts and telling her children to wear extra clothes this winter as she cannot afford to turn on the heating.

Sarah (not her real name), who lives in the South West of England and wishes to remain anonymous, spoke to Nursing Standard about her fear of getting through the upcoming winter, working up to three extra shifts a month and applying for another job in a pharmacy to make ends meet.

‘Our wages don’t

Nurse speaks of her fear of getting through winter, working up to three extra shifts a month and applying for another job just to make ends meet

Many nurses are seeking additional work to help pay their bills
Picture: iStock

A nurse has told of her desperate struggle to pay the bills as gas and electricity prices rise – picking up agency shifts and telling her children to wear extra clothes this winter as she cannot afford to turn on the heating.

Sarah (not her real name), who lives in the South West of England and wishes to remain anonymous, spoke to Nursing Standard about her fear of getting through the upcoming winter, working up to three extra shifts a month and applying for another job in a pharmacy to make ends meet.

‘Our wages don’t keep up with the cost of living’

‘I got the forecast for my gas and electric and it has doubled. I don’t know where I’m going to find the extra money from. It’s what dominates my thinking most of the time,’ she said.

‘We should be paid enough to be able to afford to live every month. Our wages don’t keep up with the cost of living. I’ve had to tell my youngest son (aged 15) that if he grows out of his school uniform part-way through the year, he’s going to have to make do because I can’t afford to buy him a new one.

‘It absolutely breaks my heart because my kids know how hard I work. We don’t live an extravagant lifestyle’

‘He told me: “Mum, I’m going to go to university and get an engineering degree because I don’t want my kids to ever grow up in poverty”. It absolutely breaks my heart because my kids know how hard I work. We don’t live an extravagant lifestyle.’

The single mother of four, who has two children living at home, said she has been working two to three extra agency shifts a month since around 2018, but will now likely have to take on more to help cover spiralling living costs.

Sarah has now applied for another job as a home care nurse for a pharmacy as energy prices increased again this month.

‘I’ve worked for the NHS since I qualified in 1995 and it’s just awful that it’s come to this’

Families can expect to pay an average of £2,500 a year for their gas and electricity bills after the new energy price cap came into force on 1 October, with all households being given a £400 energy rebate over the winter. The previous price cap was £1,970.

Many nurses are turning to food banks and charities for help

Gas and electricity bills have doubled during the cost-of-living crisis
Picture: iStock

And Sarah is not alone. A recent survey of NHS trust leaders found many nurses were leaving the profession for better paid jobs in shops and hospitality as wages fail to keep pace with inflation.

For months nurses have been warning of the dire impact poor pay is having on their lives, with many turning to food banks and charities for help. Some 27% of NHS trusts are now offering food banks for staff, while 19% are planning to do so.

‘We shouldn’t have to work multiple jobs to pay our bills. I’ve worked for the NHS since I qualified in 1995 and it’s just awful that it’s come to this,’ Sarah added.

The RCN is balloting some 300,000 UK members on strike action over pay. The union has been campaigning for a pay rise of 5% above inflation.

Government help with energy bills – what nurses need to know

Prime minister Liz Truss announced a freeze on energy bills at an average of £2,500 for the next two years from October 1.

Under the ‘energy price guarantee’ the government says the average household will save around £1,000 a year, replacing the existing Ofgem price cap, which was tipped to hit £3,549 by October. However, for many, bills are still double what they were last winter.

The measures are in addition to the £400 package of support for all households.

  • Those paying by credit or direct debit will receive an automatic deduction on their bills over 6 months – around £67 per month
  • Those using pre-paid meters will be provided with energy bill discount vouchers in the first week of every month – either via text, email or post


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