MP Simon Clarke's nurses-using-food banks remarks criticised by … – BBC

A Conservative MP's comments that nurses using food banks were just not budgeting properly have been called "heartless" by a union.
Simon Clarke told BBC Radio Tees nurses on an "average salary of £35,000 a year" should not rely on charity.
The Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP was talking after nurses began their latest two-day strike.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said his remarks were "disgusting, heartless and dangerously out of touch".
Mr Clarke earlier told BBC Radio Tees: "If you are using food banks and your average salary is £35,000 a year then something is wrong with your budgeting because £35,000 is not a salary on which you want to be relying on a food bank.
"I think we just need to be clear on this, this debate has got out of hand – the average nurse's salary is £35,000 and senior nurses earn up to about £47,000."
He said nurses needed "to take responsibility in their lives".
Nurses were walking out on Wednesday and Thursday, following two strike days before Christmas.
On Tuesday the RCN announced they would also strike on 6 and 7 February.
Pat Cullen, the RCN's general secretary, said she had met staff "from every corner of the nation" who were frightened about "not being able to meet their bills".
"To criticise anybody using a food bank is disgusting, heartless and dangerously out of touch," she said.
"Sky-high inflation means some nursing staff are living on a financial knife-edge and even their own employer, NHS trusts across the country, are being forced to open food banks to feed their staff.
"When nurses are having to pay hundreds of pounds a month just to get to work, can't afford to put food on the table, and are forced to cut back on shifts because they can't afford ever-increasing childcare costs, something is seriously wrong.
Elizabeth Thomas, a nurse joining her colleagues on the picket line outside the University Hospital of North Durham, said Mr Clarke was out of touch, adding he was "not actively listening to what professionals are saying and does not have a grip on the reality of staffing and pay across the aboard".
Vivienne Dove, an RCN senior regional officer, added her colleagues did not get paid £35,000 as band 5 nurses.
A starting salary for a band 5 nurse, which Ms Dove said made up "the bulk of the workforce in the community and on hospital wards", is just over £27,000 a year while nurses with four years' experience could earn close to £33,000.
The MP, whose constituency covers Middlesbrough's James Cook University Hospital, said he saluted the "professionalism and dedication of all those who work to provide care" but could not back the pay demands while the UK had high rates of inflation.
The union has asked for pay rises of 5% above the Retail Prices Index (RPI) rate of inflation, which currently stands at 14%.
The governments in England and Wales have given an average of 4.75% to NHS staff, with everyone guaranteed at least £1,400.
"My message is the public recognises the immense contribution our NHS makes to our society," Mr Clarke said.
"But a 19% pay deal is irresponsible, totally unaffordable for this country which cannot do this – and it would worsen our inflation very dramatically were we to give way on this.
"I would ask them to accept what I think is a responsible pay deal and I would ask them to get back to treating patients."
Ms Cullen said the issue was not just about pay, "it's about being able to recruit and retain enough nurses to safely care for our country".
"At the moment nursing staff are leaving in their droves because they can get paid the same, or marginally less, to work a job where they're not responsible for people's lives in a crumbling NHS – and that doesn't take everything they have, emotionally and psychologically."
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