Nurses 'just want to be recognised for our hard work'

Nurses and healthcare assistants in the West have joined calls for the government to scrap the 1% pay cap on public sector salaries. Some of the region's biggest hospitals are struggling to recruit for the roles, and the Royal College of Nursing says the low pay is what's putting people off.

  • The Bristol Royal Infirmary has 165 nursing vacancies.

  • The Great Western Hospital has 137 nursing vacancies.

  • The Royal Cornwall Hospital has 187 nursing vacancies.

Since the Brexit vote there has been a 96% drop in EU nurses applying to work in the UK.

Healthcare assistant Sheena Archer struggles to cope on her salary. Credit: ITV West Country

Sheena Archer, from Peasedown St John near Bath, is a full time NHS healthcare assistant. Her job is to help nurses in the operating theatre. She says her salary makes life difficult. She earns £15,600 a year and could easily earn more stacking shelves in a supermarket.

Without her husband's income Sheena would find it impossible to support her two teenage sons. As it is, the family struggles. Even buying the weekly milk can be a challenge.

Sheena Archer works in the operating theatre in a hospital. Credit: ITV West Country

Last week Sheena worked 50 hours, because of colleagues off sick and others quitting the job altogether.

The NHS can't recruit enough healthcare assistants or nurses. Since 2012, public sector pay rises have been capped at 1% a year, and that, says the Royal College of Nursing, is a problem.

A recent national survey found a record number of us - 48% - would pay more tax if it meant more money for things like the NHS.

In the Blair and Brown years, public sector workers did pretty well, with the real value of their wages creeping up. When the coalition brought in the 1% cap, inflation was virtually zero so it didn't make a big difference.

But now - five years on - inflation is heading to 3%. That means the real value of Sheena's small wage is shrinking and so is the number of people willing to do her job.