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Second jobs and foodbanks – Nurses take to Cambridge streets to protest the pay cap

By Ben Comber

Members of the Royal College of Nursing highlight that 1 in 9 nursing posts is currently unfilled as they battle to scrap the 1% pay raise cap. Pic - Richard Marsham
Members of the Royal College of Nursing highlight that 1 in 9 nursing posts is currently unfilled as they battle to scrap the 1% pay raise cap. Pic - Richard Marsham

Nurses are taking second jobs and using foodbanks to make ends meet.

Nurses gathered on Market Hill in Cambridge with a message to the Government that demonstrated the ‘immense pressure’ the one per cent cap on pay increases is placing on them.

The Royal College of Nursing is in the middle of a ‘summer of protest’, highlighting the effect that the cap, which has been in effect since 2010, is having.

It says nurses are having to take second jobs or face being forced out of the profession.

Chris Hill, RCN senior officer for Cambridgeshire, said: “The issue with the pay cap is that a lot of nurses are holding down more than one job, and they’re still accessing foodbanks.

“We’re asking more and more from our nurses to deliver healthcare, and nurses do more complex procedures than they’ve ever done before, and take on many more roles. What we’re asking Government to do is have a realistic review of the pay cap.”

RCN’s ‘summer of protest’ is also highlighting figures that show 4,000 nursing posts are currently vacant – amounting to one in nine nurses that they say are ‘missing’. On top of this, the RCN says, the NHS is struggling to fill vacancies.

Mr Hill continued: “Nurses that work in London would get an inner-city higher cost of living wage. Cambridge as an area is very expensive, so how do the local employers recruit and retain the work force that is essential in an expensive city such as Cambridge?

“Cambridge is lovely, and it does attract people by its reputation, but this is about people being able to afford to live and work in Cambridge.”

He said retaining nurses is also a problem in Cambridgeshire and that uncertainties caused by Brexit are making matters worse. The removal of the nursing student bursary only adds to the strain.

The RCN says a poll of 50,000 members in the NHS found nine in 10 people said they would support industrial action short of a strike, and four out of five people said they would be prepared to strike. It is calling for the Government to scrap the pay cap ahead of a potential ballot for industrial action.

Mr Hill continued: “We need to improve the standards of working, we need a realistc pay rise, we need Government to listen.

“The East of England has slashed the training budget. So not only are we asking nurses to work harder for less money, provide really high standards and complex care to patients, but employers are struggling to provide training for them. Nurses are under immense pressure.”


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