A former cabinet minister has doubled down on her criticism of nurses using food banks after her comments were stigmatized as “disgusting, heartless and disinterested”.
Simon Clarke, former leveling secretary, said the average nurse salary is £35,000 a year, which “is not a salary you should trust a food bank”.
“I’m afraid if you run a food bank and you average a nurse’s salary of £35,000 a year, you have a problem with your budget,” she told the BBC on Wednesday.
Mr Clarke, who earns more than £84,000 a year as MP, has been scolded by his successor, Michael Gove, NHS staff and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) – They are spearheading new strikes today over the dispute over nurses’ pay and working conditions.
Mr Gove told Sky News: “I would never criticize nurses for something like that.”
Pat Cullen, general secretary of the RCN, said: “To criticize someone who uses a food bank is disgusting, heartless and dangerously out of touch.
“Very high inflation means that some nursing staff are on the edge of financial trouble and even their own employers – NHS trusts nationwide – are being forced to open food banks to feed their staff.”
But Mr Clarke said he stood by his word.
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Tory MP Lee Anderson tweeted in support of his colleague: “The thing is, EVERYONE (not just nurses) who earns *MORE* 30,000 and uses food banks must be having a budget problem.
“I have voters like the armed forces, garbage collectors, bar workers, maintenance workers, bus drivers, retirees, all of whom can live on less. Am I missing something?”
Mr Clarke said that was “exactly” what he meant to say and that people earning £35,000 “should not need to use a food bank” except in “very special circumstances”.
In another post, Mr Anderson said one of his employees, Katy, was “single and earning less than £30,000, renting a room in central London for £775, student debt, saving £120 a month on his way to work”. , goes on foreign vacations and doesn’t need to use a food bank”.
However, the MP for Ashfield’s tweet was met with backlash from other social media users who accused him of using his employee to make a political point – the hashtag “Poor Katy” began trending on Twitter.
Nurses ‘crossed the poverty line’
While the average salary of a nurse is around £35,000, most nurses are at the Band 5 pay rate, with a starting salary of £27,055, rising to £32,934 in four years.
Matthew Tovey, a nurse and spokesperson for the NHS Say No campaign group, told Sky News that those earning £35,000 and above are “specialist nurses with more training – university courses that often cost extra”.
She said nurses often come with “£50,000 in excess debt from education” from the university and their salary packages are being squeezed by rising rents, mortgage rates, fuel and food prices.
“Some of the people that food banks typically see are student nurses, part-time nurses, single-earning nurses,” he said.
“We are now on the edge of the cost of living. [Nurses] they queue in very cold weather to eat and then work 12-hour shifts on the front line caring for patients with dangerous nurse-to-staff patient ratios.
“Nurses like me are choosing between warming up and eating while battling the worst conditions ever known to the NHS.
“I’ve seen firsthand how nurses have been pushed across the poverty line into food banks this winter. This MP needs to talk to voters and go to the local trust and food bank to see.”
The debate began this week when thousands of nurses across more than 55 NHS trusts in England went on strike.
Health minister Steve Barclay’s fierce debate over salary seems likely to continue. He said a 10% salary increase was “unaffordable”.
Ms. Cullen – She wants a 19% salary increase but He said he would meet with the government half way. – branded his comments “disappointing” as he joined the strike line this morning.
“Every nurse I spoke to was deeply disappointed,” she said.
“They say this is another move to turn our backs on the pandemic and the wonderful staff of nurses who have gotten us through a very, very incredible time that happened so long before that.”
Prime Minister ‘must hold olive branch’
Ms. Cullen urged Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to override Mr. Barclay and “keep the olive branch”. More NHS strikes next month.
NHS leaders are making contingency plans before the biggest layoff in health care history.
Ambulance staff and nurses will continue bump On February 6 – to take industrial action for the first time on the same day.
Saffron Cordery, interim chief executive of NHS Providers, said the proposed layoffs were “a major concern”.
He urged ministers to “speak urgently with the unions to settle the key salary issue for this fiscal year, otherwise there is no light at the end of the tunnel”.