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'Summer of protest' begins with nurses engaged in nationwide action

A ‘summer of protest’ has begun for nurses as the government is accused of ‘trying to run the NHS on nothing but fumes’ by the head of the British Medical Association

A ‘summer of protest’ has begun for nurses as the government is accused of ‘trying to run the NHS on nothing but fumes’ by the head of the British Medical Association (BMA).

Dr Mark Porter, in his final speech in the top position at the BMA, revealed the results of a poll conducted by the organisation showed 82% of people were worried about the future of the NHS under the current government and 62% expected the NHS to get worse in coming years.

To coincide with the NHS’s pay day on 27 June, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) will begin its summer of industrial action in protest to the lack of funding and the continued 1% cap on pay rises for all NHS staff.

Protest events will be held outside the Department of Health in London, the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, the NHS England headquarters in Birmingham and at hospitals around the country, with nurses demanding the cap be lifted or the government will face the balloting of 270,000 RCN members over whether strike action should be taken.

RCN chief executive Janet Davies said: ‘This summer, nurses will show the government how angry they feel over its failure to fund the NHS. Protests in dozens of locations will leave Theresa May in little doubt over nurses’ fears for the safety of their patients.

‘Ministers appear determined to drive more staff out with a punitive pay policy and lethal cocktail of pressure on services. The cap stands in the way of filling 40,000 vacant nurse jobs in England alone.

‘It shouldn’t pay better to stack supermarket shelves than to walk the wards. People cannot be asked to take the hit repeatedly and fund the NHS deficit from their own pocket. Theresa May must put patient safety before political dogma and scrap this cap.’

RCN figures calculate the government’s NHS pay policy has seen salaries for nursing staff fall by 14% and at least £3,000 in real-terms since 2010. The RCN will ask the government to address the real-terms loss of earnings in the next pay award.

Detailing the BMA’s poll in his speech, Dr Porter said people are most concerned about lack of funding (50%), the risk that the NHS will stop being free at the point of use (41%) and that waiting times will increase (35%). With Brexit looming, 69% worry the NHS will not get enough attention from the government.

He said: ‘We don’t have to spend less of our GDP than the other leading European economies on health. Our government has chosen to do this. If we spent the average – the average, not the most – then patients would see £15bn extra investment in the English NHS within five years.

‘We’re not asking for the world. We’re asking for the average. For a fair chance to create the health service our patients need and deserve.’

Ms Davies will join frontline RCN members outside Milton Keynes Hospital for the opening day of the summer of protest.