NURSES have turned out in force to campaign for a pay rise amid the pandemic.

They took to the streets of Brighton and Hove on Saturday, marching through the city and giving fiery speeches as cars honked and people clapped for their cause.

They were trying to convince the government they deserve a 15 per cent pay rise in a national day of protest.

The nurses are devastated after being left out of the recent public sector pay deal – and say they are at least 20 per cent worse off in real terms than they were a decade ago.

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They say their profession has been squeezed and under-resourced, leaving about 100,000 empty positions in the NHS because morale is so low.

Nurse Kelly Robbins, who works at a practice in Brighton, said people had cheered outside shops and nodded in approval as the demonstrators passed in the street.

She said it had felt uplifting to know people in Brighton supported them.

In an impassioned speech at the demonstration, Kelly said nurses were on the brink of battling a second wave, still exhausted from the first.

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She spoke of how fellow nurses have died from the virus, and said she and her colleagues want better support and representation – especially for Bame (Black, Asian, minority ethnic) staff – and end to the privatisation of the national health service.

She said: “We are still overworked, still exhausted, and still suffering from the loss of our colleagues.

“Many of us have faced working longer, tougher hours, fighting an ever-evolving situation with inadequate equipment. But we have fought on, while seeing one of the highest healthcare worker death rates in the world from Covid-19.

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“We accepted the risk, determined to do what’s best for our patients and the country. Ministers have been happy to clap for the NHS but have failed to deliver real signs of appreciation for NHS workers – excluding many from a well deserved pay rise and resulting in yet another real terms cut.

“It seems the Government have easily forgotten and abandoned the same people who have saved their lives. But the public has not forgotten us – the public has turned up for us.”

The demonstrators vowed not to give up until they are heard. Kelly said: “If you want something, you’ve got to fight for it.”

GMB, the union for NHS workers, said: “Platitudes and clapping are being offered by an ungrateful government in place of decent pay or improvements on terms and conditions – all for a workforce that has proven itself as reliable and caring time and time again, even before all their heroics during the ongoing Covid crisis.

“NHS workers have paid a huge Covid cost. Many of their colleagues have lost their lives, yet they remain ignored when it comes time for the care bill to be settled, which GMB of course expects to be used as evidence for further austerity and cuts by this government.”

Gary Palmer, GMB regional organiser, said: “GMB were clear that the 15 per cent only begins to address the last decade of pay freezes and enforced pay caps, ending in the recent disastrous three-year deal which ends in April which saw long-serving NHS staff pay increases below the cost of living.

“Frankly our members have told us enough is enough, and that although the support was welcomed the ‘Praise, Clapping, and Kind Words’ aren’t exchangeable in the shops for food or bills and rent or mortgage payments.

“Risking your life and that of your family members to care for all those unfortunate enough to get sick throughout this the pandemic wasn’t enough for this government.

“They don’t appear to be considering bringing any pay rise forward as a thank you, before even taking into account just how much they have lost in real terms over the last ten years.

“This is clearly now a straight battle between a worthless government and a priceless workforce, with the GMB backing the NHS workers all the way.”