Nurses take protest over pay to Department of Health

Nurses across England and Scotland intensified their demands for a pay rise as the RCN's summer of protest began.
Nursing demo

Nurses across England and Scotland intensified their demands for a pay rise as the RCN's summer of protest began.

Nursing demo
Scrap the cap: nursing protestors begin their summer of protest. Picture: Barney Newman

More than 100 nurses and students made their voices heard outside the Department of Health in London on 27 June, waving banners, placards and flags.

RCN lead negotiator Josie Irwin said: 'Today marks the start, just the start, of a summer of protest and activity.

'At the end of the day this is about patients. Nurses can't give the quality of care they want to give because there aren't enough of them.'

She said nurses were finding better opportunities, with university graduates going to work on graduate schemes for supermarkets because of the public-sector pay cap.

14% cut

The RCN estimates nurses have had a 14% real-terms cut in pay during the past seven years, while there are 40,000 nurse vacancies across the UK.

London-based nurse Charlotte Mead told Nursing Standard she is moving to Essex because she cannot afford to live in the capital.

ICU nurse Nicki Weston has already moved to Kent, with her commute costing £4,500 per year.

Community nurse Ms Mead said patient care was suffering because vacancies meant the ideal nurse-to-patient ratio of one to four was frequently missed.

'Fed up'

Ana Waddington, an emergency department children's nurse, said: 'I'm fed up. I am thinking about leaving my job, because I'm scared of facing the winter crises again. We barely coped this year.'

Amina Ahmed, a children's nurse, said she was relying on family and friends to support her financially.

The mother of four and her husband live in a one-bedroom flat and are unable to afford to move out of social housing – where there is a shortage of other options – into a private rental because of the prices.

'I will see how long it goes on, but if things don't change, I will end up leaving. All of my friends have already left,' she said.

'No magic money tree'

During the demonstration, author and columnist Owen Jones addressed the crowd, reminding nurses of prime minister Theresa May's explanation during the general election campaign that there was no magic money tree for a pay rise.

Elsewhere, more than 100 nurses in Scotland demonstrated outside the government buildings in Holyrood, and nurses across England led regional campaigns.

Welsh RCN pay champions – ordinary members who have volunteered to organise events – met to devise a strategy for future campaigning.

The activities are part of a summer of protest promised by the RCN, which could result in a ballot for industrial action.

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