A psychiatric nurse has spoken of colleagues having to use food banks to fend for themselves – as dozens of people took to the streets of Oxford in support of better pay for NHS staff.
Wendy Stark, a nurse for 37 years, told the Oxford Mail: “There are nurses I know who go to food banks. People can’t afford to live in Oxford. They are forced to work for agencies; forced because the cost of living is so high.
She was speaking at a march organized by campaign group SOS NHS. More than 100 people marched from Cowley Road to Bonn Square in central Oxford – shouting ‘pay rise now’ as they marched.
Protesters have called for ‘fair pay’ for NHS staff, with SOS NHS organizers warning that ‘staff shortages will cost lives’.
There were long queues on the roads as vehicles on Cowley Road and Magdalen Bridge waited patiently behind walkers.
Ms Stark said: ‘The Oxford NHS is experiencing a huge recruitment and retention crisis. It’s because of the salary. People cannot afford to live on NHS wages and stay in Oxford.
“What is the way to deal with the recruitment crisis? the [NHS] trust employs agency staff. So the agency staff come from Birmingham, they come from Bristol and they’re hemorrhaging the budget.
“Local people who work in Oxford and work for the NHS Trust are no longer being paid overtime. Anything we work over 37.5 hours we get base rate. But agency staff will get much more.
She called for local weighting for NHS staff living in Oxford, like employers in the capital.
Shirley Bodman, who works in a hospital laboratory in Oxford, said hospitals were struggling to retain staff. “Young people won’t want to work for the kind of low pay; they cannot live on it.
Dr Jacqui Ferguson said: ‘I love the NHS. I have worked for the NHS for years and we need this. It is very threatened by private companies trying to take it away from us. »
John Paine, secretary of the National Pensioners Convention in Oxfordshire, told the Mail: ‘We are very concerned about the NHS, as the National Pensioners Convention has been for years. We are here [at the march] in solidarity with others.
“We are also concerned about the social care service and the ripple effect of people not being able to leave hospital because they don’t have the care facilities available to look after them.”
Paula Robinson said: ‘I’m 66 and worked in the NHS for 12 years. I am very afraid of what is happening. I have the impression that the government is trying to privatize it.
Dr Hojjat Ramzy said: ‘We are protesting for the benefit of the NHS. We say the NHS is not for sale.
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