An agency nurse has attacked Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt over a 15 per cent cut in her wages and what she described as the portrayal of private staff in the NHS as “greedy scum”.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Amy Cope said she had worked as an NHS nurse but found her salary would not cover the cost of childcare for her two children. She also said it was difficult to arrange childcare around the “long hours and variable shift patterns”.
After joining an agency earlier this year, she said she and her teacher husband made enough to “just about make ends meet”. She dismissed reports of agency staff being paid £1,600 a day as “ridiculous”.
“Yes, my name is Amy and I am an agency nurse. The greedy scum of the health care system, always at the centre of scandals about poor patient care,” she wrote.
“Except I haven’t been in any scandals or put any patients at risk. I am the sort of greedy scum who saved a little boy’s life two days ago when his breathing deteriorated suddenly, and the sort who is studying for a masters in Children’s Nursing after putting the kids to bed each night.
“I gave up my pension, sick pay, the security of guaranteed work, and career progression for the flexibility to just work at the weekends and on school holidays when my husband is home. The hourly pay increase, compared with the NHS, just about makes up for losing those benefits, but it won’t for much longer as Jeremy Hunt’s short sighted spending cap on agency fees comes into effect.
“I am simply not the greedy, overpaid agency nurse Jeremy Hunt wants you to believe I am.”
She said one of the hospitals where she works had cut agency pay rates by 15 per cent.
“I can’t afford 15 per cent less pay this week. Can anyone? I wonder how many other nurses due to fill in the staff shortage in that hospital have been forced to cancel their shifts this week? All of us? 50 per cent? It’s worrying,” she said.
“This is not the gradual, safe approach to spending cuts I was expecting, Jeremy. Of course we need to reduce the NHS’s reliance on agency staff, but if all hospitals follow suit and simply slash pay rates instead of utilising agency staff sensibly and paying them appropriately, we are going to end up in a dangerous situation this winter.”
She said she feared other hospitals would bring in similar cuts due to the mounting financial crisis in the NHS and the pressure on health service managers to find savings.
“I’ve been a permanent nurse on an understaffed ward. I know the sinking feeling you get when your staffing levels are unsafe,” Ms Cope wrote.
“I’ve seen devoted nurses make mistakes, go off sick with stress, and ultimately even quit nursing. Cutting agency nurses pay may well reduce spending, but it may well do so by reducing the numbers of nurses on the wards.
“The only sensible, safe solution is to train more nurses and to start treat nursing as the valued profession it should be: with working patterns to suit families, a respectable wage, and working conditions that allow us to provide the excellent standards of care that every nurse I know, agency or not, is deeply committed to providing. Is that too much to ask?”
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