An intensive care nurse has broken down in tears describing how she can "barely make ends meet" as thousands of nurses across England strike over pay.
Nav Singh, 38, said she is struggling to pay bills after working in the NHS. She arrived in London from Canada 7 years ago, where she was also a nurse. Speaking from the picket line outside King’s College Hospital in south-east London, she held a sign that reads: "You’re killing me Rishi. Fair pay now".
She told the PA news agency: "It’s not feasible to take pay cut after pay cut after pay cut.
"The people at the top taking more and more for their pockets, for their businesses, for their friends, for their profits, while the people, the majority of people, suffer – and that includes patients and staff nursing."
"It’s heart breaking," she said, as she apologised for becoming emotional as she wept. "It’s a job that I love but I need to pay my bills.
"Nursing students don't want to be nurses, experienced nurses are leaving, there will be no-one left and I don’t blame them. But I can’t imagine doing anything else.
"I’m living effectively pay cheque to pay cheque, can barely make ends meet, and I’m a senior nurse.
"When junior nurses come in with debt now that they weren’t necessarily accruing before … what kind of life can you have?"
Her comments support a recent YouGOV poll that suggests 1 in 3 NHS nurses and midwives would not go into their profession again if they had the choice. Almost half of nurses and midwives said they are badly paid, 14% said they are very badly paid, and just a quarter feel well paid, the survey found. The poll was carried out in December and earlier this month, and involved 1000 workers, including 252 registered nurses and midwives.
Nurse Says She 'Breaks' Herself to Give Care to Patients
Meanwhile, clinical nurse specialist Liz Wilson said she "breaks" herself every day to try to give patients the care they need.
Also speaking outside King’s where she works, she told PA: "What I would like to give patients tomorrow I can't give for many, many months, and we need to change that.
"When people need us we need to be there, not be putting them on a waiting list for up to a year for them to be able to get what they need.
"I break myself on a daily basis to try and keep up with the workload and to try and give the patients what they need, and I go home every day feeling as if I haven't achieved that, despite the fact that I've worked above and beyond the time that I am paid to be there."
The 37-year-old from Kent said she has worked "proudly and passionately" in the NHS for 13 years.
Asked how her day-to-day life outside of work has been affected, she said: "What day-to-day life outside of work? Nursing… it is a job for life, it's a vocation, but I feel as if there isn't much time for much else."
Meanwhile, next to the Florence Nightingale statue in Derby’s London Road, around a dozen nurses were at the Royal College of Nursing picket line first thing on Wednesday morning. Several members of the public beeped their horns, as well as Royal Mail workers and a paramedic driving past.
Nurses' 'Heartbroken' to be on Picket Lines
Pat Cullen, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said that nurses were "heartbroken" to be on picket lines instead of working.
"It's a tragic day every day that our nursing staff have to stand outside their places of work instead of being inside with their patients, it is also a tragic day for patients," she told "Good Morning Britain". "There’s not a single nurse today, or any other day of strike action, that looks forward to this."
Asked about 47,000 nursing vacancies in England, she added: "Those nurses that come on duty every day and every night see enormous pressure.
"They are the people that are continuing to work unpaid hours – 2 and 3 hours over their contracted duty roster – every day and every night.
"So, they are the people that are holding the health service together, they are the people that never turn their back on their patients.
"Nurses are under even more pressure now professionally and personally than they were during a pandemic – at that stage no member of our nursing stuff felt it could get any worse, but it actually has."
Can't Afford Central Heating
Rachel Bosworth, who has worked for Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Foundation Trust since 2008, said: "I've basically not had my central heating on and just had a fire.
"It's not desperate but I've done that because I know my bills will go through the roof, and everyone has to cut their cloth.
"A lot of people have voted to strike, but haven't come out to strike as they can't financially afford to lose a day's pay, and that is unfortunate in itself and gives an indication as to how people are struggling."
Rachel Morris, a regional officer for the RCN, has been a nurse for 30 years and was also on the Derby picket line.
She said several employers are now opening their own foodbanks to support staff, or directing them to external support.
Ms Morris added: "What we have seen since the pandemic is the pressure on staff is still there, there are gaps in rotas, a lot of nurses are leaving the profession and choosing to take a slight pay cut of £2 or £3 an hour to go and work in a supermarket because they can see the benefit of not having the stress and burnout of working in this profession.
"Staff are feeling the hit in their pockets. We know that our members are going to food banks, we know they can’t afford (shoes and clothes for their children), or afford a small break away to treat their families."
She added: "It changes minute to minute (whether a patient will get care). Nurses are feeling very frustrated that they can’t give the care they want to give.
"They are having to do the bare minimum to keep patients safe because they don’t have time to do the nicer stuff and holistic care that really is very valuable to patients."
Kaleb Fowkes, a 20-year-old history student at De Montfort University in Leicester, is from Derby and was at the RCN picket line to show solidarity with striking nurses.
He said: "I support the right to strike, I support nurses on strike, and personally they have been very useful to me as I dislocated my knee not too long ago and they were great, so I am showing my appreciation back.
"It’s important to show they’re not alone."
This article contains information from PA Media