Nurses 'have no choice but to strike' as they are forced to resort to … – iNews

NHS nurses have said they have no choice but to strike, with growing numbers being forced to use food banks, sleep on friends’ sofas and take on second jobs.
One nurse told i that her colleagues were facing “shocking financial difficulties” as another warned “we are at a crisis point and nothing else has worked”.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN), which represents nurses, is balloting hundreds of thousands of its members this month on whether they will support strike action over a 5 per cent pay offer from the Government.
It is joining other unions representing frontline NHS workers, including paramedics and emergency call operators, in balloting for strikes in a bid to force ministers to improve their offer.
Liverpool-based NHS nurse Carmel O’Boyle said she and many of her colleagues are “terrified” at the prospect that without a better pay offer they will not be able to afford their mortgages or bills.
She said many had already been forced to take on extra nursing shifts via an agency to top up their NHS wages, while others were reliant on food banks – some of which have been set up across north-west England by NHS trusts – to feed their families.
“In the UK, in one of the richest places on the planet, we’ve got nurses using food banks – that’s abhorrent,” she said.
“I genuinely don’t know anyone who hasn’t got a second job or is having to work for an agency just to make ends meet.”
With the price of fuel climbing, some community nurses have resorted to siphoning petrol out of their partner’s cars to visit patients, while student nurses are sofa-surfing between friends’ homes and walking to work instead of using public transport because their salaries are so low, Mrs O’Boyle claimed.
“Nobody is shirking, nobody is sitting on their laurels not doing anything,” she said. “Nurses across our area and across the country are really worried and in shocking financial difficulties.
“And we get the rhetoric we didn’t come into nursing for the money – but the reality is we came into nursing as a stable profession and thought that I would at least be able to pay my bills and not have hospitals be reduced to opening food banks.”
Mrs O’Boyle said she hoped Liz Truss would agree to a better pay package, with the “NHS is on its knees” and at “crisis point”, but added that she had “little faith” the new Prime Minister would deliver.
“Nurses have been in this same situation for over 10 years now and have had to live and work through austerity and now the cost of living crisis. I’ve got people on my patch who are absolutely terrified and they’re wondering how they’re going to get through Christmas,” she said.
London-based community nurse Samantha Spence said the strike action being considered was a “last resort”.
She backed the RCN’s call for the Government to draw up a workforce plan for the NHS to outline how the huge number of vacancies in the health service will be filled.
“I don’t think any nurse ever wants to consider strike action – it is certainly not why I went into the profession – but if it is not now, when?” Ms Spence said. “We have a workforce in utter crisis. The vacancy rate across nursing keeps increasing.
“There is not enough nurses coming into the system and we have got more leaving and retiring because, quite honestly, the stress and the pressures aren’t worth it.
“There is only so much delivering good care to patients you can do when the wages don’t pay the bills.”
Ms Spence said that some of her colleagues are regularly off work with sickness brought about by being overworked, which leaves the rest of the team having to prioritise their most vulnerable patients.
This can result in some patients not getting seen regularly and had even resulted in some being readmitted to hospital, or having to wait longer to be given treatment they rely on, she added.
“Nurses are burning themselves out, because they will try and fill the gaps, nurses will try and do everything they can to try and meet the needs of the population and it has now got to a point where that is just not possible,” she said.
“They are now leaving because over the past few years we have had a system of having to do more and more, with less and less and less.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We hugely value the dedication and contribution of NHS nurses, and are working to boost recruitment, training and retention to ensure the NHS has a long-term sustainable nursing workforce.
“We are over halfway towards meeting our commitment to recruiting 50,000 more nurses, with nursing numbers over 29,000 higher in May 2022 than they were in September 2019.
“We accepted the recommendations from the independent NHS pay review bodies in full, giving over one million NHS workers, including nurses, a pay rise of at least £1,400 this year.
“We want a fair deal for staff and we know that very high inflation-driven settlements would have a worse impact on pay packets in the long run than proportionate and balanced increases now.
“Industrial action is a matter for unions, and we urge them to carefully consider the potential impacts.”
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