TWO EXPERIENCED nurses have warned that their colleagues “can’t keep going”.

Debs Brown and Anne Wood, who are the Swindon stewards for professional body the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and both work as nurses at the Great Western Hospital, urged government to end the cap on increases to nurses pay.

Since 2010, nurses – in common with other public sector workers – have had their annual pay rises limited to one per cent.

The Royal College of Nursing say that the cap means nurses have seen a real-terms cut to their income of 14 per cent in the last seven years.

In Swindon, bosses at GWH have struggled to fill nursing vacancies, relying on agency staff. According to reports shared with the hospital’s board of directors, GWH had a nursing turnover rate of almost 18.5 per cent in May 2017. This month the hospital are expecting to spend over £313,000 on agency nurses - down on last year's August figure of almost £460,000.

Debs Brown, who started working at GWH in 1995, said: “I have still got my passion for nursing and making acutely unwell patients better. But there will come a stage where we can’t keep going on.

“Across the country, people are just getting tired.”

Fellow RCN steward Anne Wood added: “[Nationally], it’s getting to a situation now where it’s affecting patient safety.”

The pair praised their hospital, which they described as “dedicated to looking after their staff”. But said hospital managers’ “hands were tied”.

Debs said: “Underfunding the NHS is a political decision. The UK government must scrap the cap.

“How can nurses keep going on and on for the pay they get? We just want a fair pay for a day’s work.”

Today representatives from the RCN were at the hospital to speak to staff, patients and visitors about their campaign to get rid of the pay cap.

Lynn Batson, RCN senior officer for the South West region, said: “Pay isn’t the only factor in recruiting and retaining nurses, but [the cap] makes them feel undervalued.

“This is not about individual hospitals. We know that the hospitals are struggling to recruit and retain nurses. This is about the government lifting the one per cent pay cap.

At a NHS Confederation conference for health trust bosses last month, health secretary Jeremy Hunt hinted that a pay cap for NHS nurses could be lifted.

The RCN’s Lynn Batson said: “Words are easy. What’s needed are actions.”

The organisation have asked nurses and members of the public to write to their MPs about the campaign. A rally will be held in central London on Wednesday September 6.

“If the government don’t take any action, in the Autumn we will be balloting our members for industrial action.”

A poll of RCN members earlier this year found that nine in 10 would be prepared to take industrial action short of a strike and 78 per cent said they would be prepared to strike.

Justin Tomlinson, Conservative MP for North Swindon, said: “We are rightly spending £8bn extra per year on the NHS, a record amount of money.

“The initial pay cap was to protect vital frontline public sector jobs, in contrast to across Europe where hundreds of thousands of jobs were lost. As the economy continues to grow we will absolutely share the proceeds with hardworking staff.

“Even with the pay cap, this [the one per cent cap] was an average - with the lowest earners rightly prioritised for larger increases. It was combined with the introduction of the National Living Wage and changes to the Income Tax Threshold worth an average of £700 for anyone in full-time work.”