'If we don't take action the situation is only going to get worse'
A senior nurse has told ITV News why she feels she has no choice other than to walk out this December, as nurses announced they would strike for the first time ever over a dispute over pay and working pressures.
Senior Staff Nurse Jodie Elliott said the situation "has never been this bad" amid chronic staff shortages, overwhelmed hospitals and mounting winter pressures.
"We are seeing an unprecedented backlog of patients. We've seen unprecedented numbers of nurses leaving the profession," Ms Elliot told ITV News, adding the NHS was unable to retain nursing staff with its current rates of pay.
Asked what it is like to be an NHS nurse right now, Ms Elliot said: "At the moment, it's trying to make the impossible possible. It's never having enough staff, it's having more patients than we know what to do with.
"We've already seen the buildup to winter pressures starting, so hospitals are filling up, there is nowhere for patients to go if they need procedures, if they come in via ambulance.
"It's meaning that patient care is categorically suffering; myself and my colleagues have got to a point where if we don't change something now and take action, then the situation is only going to get worse," she warned.
"I am not willing to watch the NHS crumble underneath my feet," Ms Elliot continued.
The nurse, who said she was "living through the backlog" of patients in the operating theatres where she worked, told ITV News of the exhaustion and frustration nurses are feeling.
"None of us came to work to do a bad job, and we hold ourselves to very high standards, and at the moment there are times when we're not able to deliver that high standard of care, because we physically don't have the boots on the ground to be able to do it, so procedures are being delayed."
She warned this would not change unless the staffing crisis was resolved.
News of the strike comes after Royal College of Nursing (RCN) General Secretary Pat Cullen said "we have pushed nurses to the brink", as she described how some low-paid workers were left feeling humiliated by having to pick up food parcels at foodbanks despite working long and gruelling shifts.
Ms Elliot told ITV News she had been forced to opt out of her NHS pension because she could no longer afford it, despite working full time.
"Me and my colleagues, a lot of us have stopped contributing to our pensions because we just can't afford it," she said.
"It's put me into a slightly more comfortable situation financially, however before that I was going into debt every single month."
She added some nurses were having to work overtime just to make ends meet, where previously the extra money might have been spent on holidays or their children's birthdays.
"It has never been this bad," she said, adding, "the Covid pandemic has piled on a huge amount of pressure to a system that was already cracking."
"The NHS has run on a lot of goodwill and a lot of people putting in extra time for a really long time and going above and beyond, but we're getting to a point where people have nothing left to give."
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