MIND THE GAP: Nurses are finding it difficult ‘to make ends meet' © Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images

By Sairah Masud

A BRITISH Sikh nurse has said that scrapping the pay cap was “the most important thing” that would help NHS nurses get recognition for the work and hours they do, as he asserted that the issue had a huge impact on staff morale.

Rohit Sagoo, a paediatric nurse and founder of British Sikh Nurses, told Eastern Eye that the pay cap is having a “detrimental effect” on nurses, many of whom have had to take up second and third jobs to make ends meet.

“There are nurses who, at the end of the month, have got very little to even use on transport to go to work. They have cut bursaries, which have made matters even worse, as many nurses are in debt and living beneath the poverty line.”

It is estimated that 270,000 NHS nurses have seen their salaries frozen or capped since 2010 while putting in large amounts of unpaid overtime work.

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced that health secretary Jeremy Hunt was currently negotiating changes to NHS pay scales for nurses so any wage increase would be recommended in “due course”.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt

Janet Davies, chief executive of the Royal College of Nurses, said: “The NHS has been running on the goodwill of its staff for too long, and with more talk of reform and productivity, Hammond runs the risk of insulting nurses who regularly stay at work unpaid
after 12-hour shifts.”

Sagoo added: “Every nurse loves their job – we do it for the love of the job and the people, we don’t do it for the money but the care we give to the patients. If that isn’t reflected in our pay packet at the end of the month, it does demoralise and demotivate you. There
are nurses leaving to get other jobs that pay extra.”

He said that Brexit has also had a “massive effect” on the number of European nurses leaving the NHS.

Only 46 nurses from the EU registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council to practise in the UK since the referendum – a 96 per cent drop.

To combat shortages, officials from Health Education England last week revealed plans to hire 5,500 nurses from India and the Philippines, with 500 due to be recruited from overseas by March 2018.

Indian nurses to be recruited by the NHS

It plans to train overseas nurses in the UK before giving placements on the basis that they would return to their home countries with new skills.

Despite this, Sagoo anticipates more privatisation in the years to come.

“You can already see elements of (the NHS) being privatised. They are posting up more services to private organisations like Virgin Health,” he said.

Under the Conservative government, DoH figures show that the amount of its funding that has gone to “independent sector providers” more than doubled from £4.1 billion in 2009-10, Labour’s last year in power, to £8.7bn in 2015-16.

“What was once the emblem of our British nation is now slowly diminishing. A lot of GP services are going out to private practice. I can see in the next decade that will only increase, and that’s sad,” said Sagoo.

CHRONIC DISEASES ‘ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM’

A REPORT last month by the Health Foundation think-tank found that the average number
of patients each full-time GP has on their books rose 3.2 per cent from 2014 to 2015 to stand at 1,679.

Dr Kailash Chand, honorary vice-president of the British Medical Association (BMA), said people needed to take care of their own health as one way to alleviate the burden on
healthcare professionals and address underfunding.

“Heart disease, diabetes, alcohol/drug abuse – all these things have produced so much
of the NHS workload which is eating up money, resources and time and the government
isn’t doing anything about it.

The elephant in the room is how do we try and reduce the burden of chronic diseases?”

People of south Asian heritage in the UK are twice as likely to develop diabetes compared
with people from white European backgrounds, in addition to the likelihood of developing the disease at a younger age.

South Asians have a higher risk of developing diabetes compared to the general population

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is also more common among south Asians, as is the risk of
dying early from CHD, all of which have been linked to diet and lifestyle.

Furthermore, recent figures have also revealed alcohol abuse to be a significant problem
in the Sikh community, with a higher rate of admission for treatment for Sikh males
than their white counterparts.

Professor Kamila Hawthorne, vice-chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, agreed that multiple morbidity and an ageing population was placing further strain on resources, adding that managing weight, exercise and healthy eating would allow GPs to use their time more effectively.

“There’s a black hole of demand. There are a large number of patients that need to be seen
and they are not coming with trivial problems, they are coming with quite serious issues.
It’s just the quantity of the work that’s coming our way that is causing so much pressure.

“The public need to spend some time looking after themselves so then we get more time
looking after people who need extra care from us.”