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'Struggling' nurses depending on hardship grants to survive, union says

Record numbers of nurses and healthcare assistants have applied for hardship grants, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has said.

The union warned that the Government's determination to hold pay levels below inflation for a sixth year in a row was leaving nurses struggling to cover food and rent.

Last year, more than 700 nurses and healthcare assistants applied for grants worth an average of £500, an increase of 50% since pay restraint was imposed in 2010, the RCN said.

Data shows that one in four grants were requested by full-time staff to help with the cost of food, travel, rent or mortgage payments.

The grants range from £100 to £1,000. More than £250,000 was given out by the RCN last year, almost five times the figure a decade ago.

The RCN said nursing staff are 14% worse off in real-terms since 2010 as a result of Government policies on public sector pay.

It comes after Unison warned in October that NHS staff were turning to food banks and pay day loans.

Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of RCN, said: "These grants are an invaluable lifeline to so many nursing staff.

"But is a sad indictment that a growing number require financial assistance, even those on full-time salaries, simply to cover everyday costs.

"Too many are struggling to make ends meet, with some taking on second jobs or even turning to foodbanks.

"In Wednesday's Budget, the Government must offer nurses and health care assistants a pay increase that keeps pace with the cost of living and not another real-terms cut.

"The Government must show it values those working under immense pressure and taking care of patients when they are most vulnerable.

"Unless they do, people will be deterred from joining the profession and others will feel no choice but to leave, doing further damage to the quality of care patients receive."

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