There are ‘many complex reasons’ why nurses might be forced to use food banks, according to Theresa May.
The Prime Minister appeared on BBC One's Andrew Marr Show on 30 April as part of her campaign in the run up to the general election next month. She was asked by presenter Mr Marr whether she thought it was ‘surely wrong’ that nurses’ pay might be so low they become dependent on food banks to feed themselves or their families.
She said: ‘There are many complex reasons why people go to food banks and I want to create an economy where we have a strong economy where we pay for public services that we need but we are also creating secure jobs.’
Read more: 'Invest in the NHS': Nurses prepare for shock general election
When Mr Marr responded that people ‘haven’t got enough money to eat at the moment’, the Conservative leader reiterated the need for ‘strength in the economy’, while she later promised a tax cut for ‘working families’ if her party wins on 8 June.
However, she made no specific promises not to raise taxes.
The Labour party were quick to criticise her performance on the programme, blasting her ‘ignorant disregard’ of austerity’s impact on healthcare staff.
A Labour party spokesperson said: ‘This Tory leadership has failed to give our hardworking healthcare staff the utmost respect they deserve. Unlike Theresa May, Labour will remove the 1% pay cap to ensure food banks and hardship grants become a thing of the past for staff in our NHS.’
Mrs May’s response on the programme was poorly received by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), who condemned her for a ‘failure’ to answer Mr Marr’s question properly.
Read more: Thousands of nurses take part in poll on possible strikes over pay
RCN chief executive Janet Davies said: ‘Theresa May was explicitly asked to admit that it is wrong for nurses to be forced to use food banks in 2017. Not only did she fail to acknowledge it is wrong, she failed to even mention nurses or their work in her reply.
‘Nurses should not have to fund the NHS deficit from their own pay packets. Every year that the government holds NHS pay below inflation, hundreds of thousands of nurses get another real-terms cut to their salary.
‘A growing number of nurses feel they can no longer afford to work in the profession and others are deterred from joining by the meagre pay on offer. After the election, for the sake of patient safety, the government must scrap the pay cap and fill the tens of thousands of vacant jobs.’
Read more: Gap between living cost and wages across UK 'widening' for nurses