A SWINDON nurse has said that she knows of colleagues forced to use food banks.

Anne Wood, 58, who works as a hospital nurse in the town, made the charge on the eve of a London protest urging the Government to increase nurses’ pay.

She said: “I know colleagues of mine have been going to food banks in Swindon and Devizes.

“I find it a struggle keeping up with all these bills that are going up a lot faster than my wages.”

Anne, who is one of two Swindon representatives for the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), is planning to attend a march organised by the union in London today.

The RCN’s Scrap the Cap calls on the Government to end the cap on increases to nurses’ pay.

Since 2010, nurses – in common with other public sector workers – have had their annual pay rises limited to one per cent.

The cap means that on average nurses have seen their incomes fall by 14 per cent in real terms in the last seven years, the RCN say.

Swindon nurse Anne Wood said: “We work really hard and we do give extremely good quality nursing care. But we’re doing over time to pay our bills.”

Some nurses were working two jobs to make ends meet, she added.

Anne will join hundreds of other nurses at the central London march today.

“This is the first time I’ve ever been on a march,” she said. “I feel that strongly about needing to make my voice heard.”

Sarah Zanooni, interim South West director for the RCN, said: "Experienced nursing staff are leaving in droves while the next generation do not see their future in an under-valued profession saddled with a huge student debt.

“If the Government fails to address this issue by scrapping the cap and allowing the independent pay review body for NHS staff to make a reasonable recommendation to fill the gap, then industrial action by nursing staff becomes a real possibility.”

A new public survery, conducted by pollsters YouGov for the RCN, found that 72 per cent feel that there are too few nurses to provide safe care to patients. Over two thirds of the public said that nurses are underpaid. 

A poll of RCN members earlier this year found that nine in 10 would be prepared to take industrial action short of a strike and 78 per cent said they would be prepared to strike.

Justin Tomlinson, Conservative MP for North Swindon, said last month: “We are rightly spending £8bn extra per year on the NHS, a record amount of money.

“The initial pay cap was to protect vital frontline public sector jobs, in contrast to across Europe where hundreds of thousands of jobs were lost. As the economy continues to grow we will absolutely share the proceeds with hardworking staff.

“Even with the pay cap, this [the one per cent cap] was an average - with the lowest earners rightly prioritised for larger increases.

"It was combined with the introduction of the National Living Wage and changes to the Income Tax Threshold worth an average of £700 for anyone in full-time work.”