Recently I’ve had dozens of people getting in touch about nurses pay. People are rightly outraged that nurses, who are doing an incredibly demanding job and working anti-social hours in increasing difficult circumstances, have seen a real terms drop in earnings of up to 14%.
Only last night I held an event for the Women’s Forum in Parliament where women spoke of the outstanding care they had received from nurses at Lewisham Hospital. However, we have to ask ourselves how long we can expect this exceptional care when nurses are being treated so unfairly by the Conservative Government. The RCN have told me that the pay freeze is driving a recruitment and retention problem in my local area, and it’s being repeated across London. The fear is that future recruitment will become even more challenging.
It has gone on for years, nurses have suffered pay restraints since 2010. I’ve had so many nurses living in the constituency emailing me explaining how unbearable they are finding the profession. Morale is at an all-time low, and they have never felt so undervalued. They’ve told me how they are being priced out of the area because of the low rate of pay and are struggling to afford their bills. It’s an outrageous reality that the Conservative Government have imposed on the people who provide care for us at our most vulnerable times.
Last Monday Parliament debated an online petition on the pay restraint imposed on Agenda for Change NHS staff. Sadly I wasn’t able to attend the debate, however I know how important it is to have a pay deal that reflects the difficult job that NHS workers do, the responsibility they have, and their dedication to the health service.
The NHS is at the top of my list of priorities, I campaign locally on a regular basis. I also have a visit to Lewisham hospital planned, where I hope to listen to those on the front line. The NHS Pay Review Body is expected to make its next recommendations in the coming weeks, in the mean time I hope to put pressure on the Government in the commons at any opportunity I get.
“We are humans too. Sometimes, I'm even scared to come to work and some of the nurses I discussed with feel the same. It's like if being a nurse is having a sword of Damocles hanging over our hearts. We look after the patients the best we can but nobody is looking after us.” - Sarah, a nurse from my local area.