NURSES from the region have been protesting against stagnating pay as part of a campaign calling for the Government to scrap the one per cent cap on wages.

Nursing staff from across the North-East and Cumbria joined the demonstration at the Angel of the North, in Gateshead.

It was one of 40 events organised by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) today (Thursday), which was the second day of its planned “summer of protest”.

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The one per cent cap on public sector pay rises was imposed by the Government in 2010, which the RCN says means nurses have effectively suffered a 14 per cent pay cut in real terms.

RCN regional director Glenn Turp said: “Nursing staff don’t tend to get political but we’ve had enough. Food, housing and other day-to-day costs are rising and rising but our pay is practically static.

“Staff on the wards and out in the community feel undervalued and demoralised.

“People are not signing up to study nursing and many are leaving. This cannot continue. It’s dangerous for patient care and it’s unsustainable.

“We’re now asking members of the public to join us and show support for this campaign to get the pay cap lifted.”

Figures collated by the RCN earlier this year showed that across the North-East, around 5.6 per cent of nursing positions are unfilled – the equivalent of around 1,150 nurses.

Across the NHS in England, they say 11.1 per cent, or one in nine nursing posts are vacant.

The RCN is planning to ballot its members later this year on the possibility of taking industrial action.

It is staging a “summer of protest” ahead of a formal ballot.

A survey of members in May showed nine in ten would support industrial action if the pay cap is not scrapped.

A department of health spokesperson said: “As the Secretary of State has made clear, the support and welfare of NHS staff is a top priority as they do a fantastic job - the government is committed to ensuring they can continue to deliver world-class patient care.”

The department says staffing is a priority and adds that there are almost 12,500 more nurses than in May 2010, as well as 11,800 more doctors.

Earlier this week NHS Digital released figures on advertised vacancies across NHS Jobs, the main recruitment website for the health organisation, which revealed that on average nursing jobs are only attracting three applicants each.

In the North-East, there were 1,009 jobs nursing and midwifery jobs advertised from January to March this year – which was higher than any other three-month period since April 2015.

NHS Digital said that the figures should be treated with caution as job advertisements can be used to fill multiple vacancies or an ongoing recruitment campaign.

The RCN says the real figure of unfilled posts is much higher than those advertised – standing at around 40,000 nationally.

General secretary Janet Davies said nurses were facing a “perfect storm” of staff shortages, poor pay and pressure.

She added : “More people are leaving nursing than joining - deterred by low pay, relentless pressure and new training costs.”