The pay cap ‘must be consigned to history’, according to more than 300 nurses who congregated outside Downing Street calling on Theresa May to lift austerity measures.
Across a day of UK-wide events on 27 July, the centrepiece of the Royal College of Nursing’s (RCN) ‘summer of protest’ was the central London rally attended by nurses and members of the public alike. Despite heavy showers, protesters gathered together with cries of ‘scrap the cap’ in support of the college’s campaign.
In her speech, RCN president Cecilia Anim called on nurses ‘in every community’ to show their anger at the seven-year cap by writing to MPs and informing the people they live and work with.
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Speaking to Independent Nurse, she said: ‘Primary care and community nurses must join our cause, join our summer of protest. Your numbers are diminished, your resources are depleted and your case loads continue to grow as your pay shrinks.
Protestors of all ages attended the rally
‘The pay cap is affecting all sectors of nursing and we need all the help we can get to consign this problem to history.’
With some nurses turning to food banks to feed their families, many speakers touched on the fact that nurses cannot be expected to keep making sacrifices. Carey Johnson, a sickle cell specialist nurse, spoke at the event about how pay restraint has forced her to move out of London and commute to her East London job for up to two hours either way.
District nurse Annique Simpson and colleague Michael Coram
‘We are nursing Londoners back to health, but we are not allowed to feel like Londoners,’ she said. ‘After six years working in East London, the restrictions on our wages is forcing me to leave my trust – I can’t keep supporting my family in the job that I love.
'Theresa May says there are complex reasons keeping our pay down - I say we make it simple for her.'
Annique Simpson, a French district nurse based in Bromley, explained how the post-Brexit environment has left her with a cocktail of uncertainties. ‘I can’t afford a family holiday this year, I can’t afford my NHS pension and I don’t know if I will be able to stay because of my French passport,’ she said. ‘Theresa May is overseeing a car crash in slow motion.’
READ MORE: 'Chaos' ahead if nursing workforce not prepared for Brexit
Other key speakers at the event included former EastEnders actor Maddy Hill, who spoke affectionately about the nurses who treated her childhood asthma.
Student nurse Rosina Chapman is worried for her future
Student nurses were in attendance to protest the treatment of the workforce they hope to join. ‘This is my future, how can you not be disheartened by this?’ said Rosina Chapman from the University of Essex. ‘I still love the idea of being a nurse but I know so many nurses who are suffering because of the cap.’
READ MORE: Students turn away from nursing as applications fall 'dramatically'
The RCN’s summer of protest continues through August, culminating in their biggest-ever rally at an undisclosed location in central London on 6 September. On the same day, nurses will be able to meet with MPs who support lifting the cap at a drop-in session in Parliament.