Nurses to protest over pay

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Thousands of nurses are to take part in a protest over pay today.

Two thousand nurses are expected to hold a demonstration in Parliament Square iimmediately after the first Prime Minister's Questions of the new parliamentary year, as part of a union campaign calling on the Government to scrap the long-standing one per cent cap on public sector pay.

The Royal College of Nursing has warned its members could take industrial action unless the limit is removed, while a poll has shown almost seven out of 10 people believe nurses are underpaid.

The survey also found that the majority of people think there are too few NHS nurses to provide safe care for patients.

Speculation is mounting that Prime Minister Theresa May is preparing to end the cap for nurses, teachers and other public sector workers later this year.

But RCN chief executive Janet Davies said: "The public can see the shortage of nurses for themselves.

"Ministers are significantly out of touch with public opinion. They should heed this warning, scrap the pay cap and help to recruit thousands more nurses for a safer NHS.

"Experienced nursing staff are leaving in droves - not because they don't like the job, but because they can't afford to stay, while the next generation do not see their future in an under-valued profession.

"If the Government fails to announce a change of direction in the Budget, then industrial action by nursing staff immediately goes on the table."

A recent report by the RCN revealed the number of vacant nursing posts in England alone stands at around 40,000.

Ms Davies said the NHS was 'being dragged down by the worst nursing shortage in its history'.

The RCN's new YouGov poll of 1,624 members of the public found 72 per cent believe there are too few nurses to provide safe care to patients.

Some 68 per cent said nurses are underpaid, including 58 per cent of those who voted Conservative in the last election.

Meanwhile, 57 per cent of people said they would be willing to pay more tax to make the NHS safer - including a majority of Tory voters.

In May, almost eight out of 10 nurses polled by the RCN said they would be prepared to go on strike if the pay cap is not lifted.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "As the Secretary of State has made clear, ministers are well aware of the pressures on frontline NHS staff, including nurses, who do a fantastic job.

"The support and welfare of NHS staff is a top priority, and the Government is committed to ensuring they can continue to deliver world-class patient care."

"We are helping the NHS to make sure it has the right staff, in the right place, at the right time to provide safe care - that's why there are over 31,100 more professionally qualified clinical staff, including over 11,600 more doctors, and almost 12,000 more nurses on our wards since May 2010."