Scrap the cap protest: Thousands of nurses descend on Parliament Square to campaign against pay cap

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Two thousand nurses were set to descend on Parliament Square on Wednesday demanding that Theresa May scraps the controversial public sector pay cap.

The demonstration will coincide with the end of the first Prime Minister’s Questions of the new parliamentary year – piling the pressure on Mrs May who faces a turbulent Autumn as Tory leader.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) – leading the demonstration – has warned its members could be willing to strike unless the limit is removed.

In May, almost eight out of 10 nurses polled by the union said they would be prepared to go on strike if the pay cap is not lifted.

Protest: Members of the RCN demonstrating against the public sector pay cap (RCN)

The ‘Scrap the cap’ campaign has warned that the existing government measures are “putting patients at risk” and “devalue[ing] nurses”.

An RCN poll revealed almost 70 per cent of people believe nurses are underpaid and most believe there are too few NHS nurses to provide safe care for patients.

RCN chief executive Janet Davies said: “The public can see the shortage of nurses for themselves. Ministers are significantly out of touch with public opinion. 

“They should heed this warning, scrap the pay cap and help to recruit thousands more nurses for a safer NHS.

“Experienced nursing staff are leaving in droves – not because they don’t like the job, but because they can’t afford to stay, while the next generation do not see their future in an under-valued profession.

“If the Government fails to announce a change of direction in the Budget, then industrial action by nursing staff immediately goes on the table.”

The number of vacant nursing posts in England alone stands at around 40,000.

Ms Davies told the Daily Mirror the NHS was “being dragged down by the worst nursing shortage in its history”.

Strike: The RCN warned members could be willing to strike over the issue (PA)

Speculation is mounting that Theresa May is preparing to end the cap for nurses, teachers and other public sector workers later this year.

The Treasury is due to send out letters within weeks setting out the remit for public sector pay review bodies for next year’s pay round.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “As the Secretary of State has made clear, ministers are well aware of the pressures on frontline NHS staff, including nurses, who do a fantastic job.

“The support and welfare of NHS staff is a top priority, and the Government is committed to ensuring they can continue to deliver world-class patient care.

“We are helping the NHS to make sure it has the right staff, in the right place, at the right time to provide safe care – that’s why there are over 31,100 more professionally qualified clinical staff, including over 11,600 more doctors, and almost 12,000 more nurses on our wards since May 2010.”

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