THOUSANDS of NHS workers took to the streets across the UK as part of a campaign for a 15 per cent pay increase.

More than 100 campaigners met at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton at 11am on Saturday before marching through the city.

The movement followed frustration among grassroots NHS workers after they were left out of government plans to give almost one million public sector workers an above-inflation increase.

The Argus:

Protesters in Brighton carried banners and signs emblazoned with messages, with one banner saying, “nurses are worth more than a clap,” referencing the Clap For Carers event which was a weekly fixture for many weeks of the coronavirus lockdown.

Kelly Robbins, who has worked in nursing for the past ten years, organised the protest in Brighton.

The 31-year-old said: “We received some great support, both from people who attended the march as well as passersby who wished us well as we made our way from outside the local hospital to The Level, where we had speeches from organisers, local interest groups, NHS workers and party representatives.

The Argus:

“People have been out across the UK today to demonstrate and it’s important the Government responds to that.

“We save lives, including that of the Prime Minister, and in order for the NHS to continue attracting nurses to the profession and stop people leaving, we need to pay them an appropriate wage.”

Speaking to The Argus ahead of the protest, Kelly explained her motivation for organising the demonstration.

She said: “I don’t think a lot of the public know but NHS staff haven’t had a genuine pay rise in ten years.

The Argus:

“What we’ve actually had is seven years of pay freezes, a one year pay cap at one per cent and then a three-year pay deal at 1.7 per cent per year, which was way below inflation –so we’ve effectively had a 20 per cent pay cut in the last ten years. This means the average staff nurse is now over £5,000 worse off than they were in 2010.

“Being a nurse means going in to work every day making decisions that could effectively save or take someone’s life.

“With such a huge responsibility that sits on our shoulders, you would think that it would be no question to pay us a fair wage.”

Public appreciation for the roles of NHS staff has been at an all time high during the pandemic with tens of thousands of people applauding their efforts from their doorsteps as part of the Clap for Carers campaign.

Kelly said this was “a great public gesture” but “that support and pride now needs to be converted into policy”.

The Argus:

The heroics of healthcare staff and key workers during the coronavirus crisis prompted the Government to pledge an above-average pay rise for public sector workers last month. Teachers and doctors were all included in the salary hike, but nurses were omitted from the scheme.

Kelly said job retention was a huge challenge for the NHS, and this latest move could lead to nurses leaving the profession.

“We can’t afford to have any more staff leaving at this time,” she said.