Theresa May insisted there are ‘many complex reasons’ why people use foodbanks, when she was challenged over the numbers of nurses turning to them, on the Andrew Marr show this Sunday.
Let me, as a nurse, and a health service shop steward, answer this question for her.
Since 2010, to pay the costs of an economic crisis caused by a lack of regulation and mismanagement of the economy and financial sector, May’s party have pursued policies to shrink the public sector and save the government money.
Hospitals, care homes, libraries, schools have all borne the cost of these policies, along with those who work in them.
In the health service it’s meant seven years of ‘pay restraint’.
Pay restraint is code for pay cuts.
Nurses and midwives have seen their pay cut by 14%, according to the Royal College of Nurses, and doctors and health visitors by up to 12%.
In Cambridge, an area where house prices grew by nearly 50% between 2010 and 2015, it’s meant wage growth lagging a long way behind the increase in the cost of living.
We face a staffing crisis in our NHS services and simply will not be able to run them if the staff they depend on cannot afford to live here.
And though the debate often focuses on nurses, we must not forget those on the lower bands of the NHS, carers, porters, cleaners, catering staff, who face the same pay cuts on even lower incomes. The NHS cannot run without them.
I have walked around Addenbrooke’s and the Rosie many times lately, talking to staff about the latest below inflation pay offer of 1%.
I hear anger and frustration from nurses, carers and other NHS staff, but mainly sadness. Many are worried about how to feed their children and keep their homes warm.
These are the people caring for you when you have an accident or unexpected illness. The people, stressed and worried, who are trying to cover the gaps that are opening up as our overstretched and understaffed services continue under huge pressure. They need help.
Nurses are going to foodbanks because the government has chosen to impoverish them.
It’s not complex, it’s very simple.