A petition calling for an end to pay restraint for nurses and nursing support staff in England is on the threshold of forcing a debate on the issue in parliament.
The petition, set up by nurse campaigner Danielle Tiplady in early October 2016, has so far been signed by over 98,000 people.
Under government rules, when a petition set up on its site has 100,000 signatures it will be considered for debate in parliament.
With two and a half months still to run before the deadline, the petition needs only around another 1,500 signatures to reach its ultimate target.
The Department of Health has already been forced to respond in writing to the petition, after it passed an interim goal of 10,000 signatures last year.
“There is a trade-off between pay and jobs in many public services, and pay restraint is one of the many difficult choices the government has had to make,” said the DH in its statement in the autumn.
It added that, while pay restraint was “challenging”, inflation was at historic low levels, overall nurse earnings had increased every year since 2010-11, and that they received AfC increments on top.
However, in her introduction to the petition, Ms Tiplady highlighted that Agenda for Change staff including nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants, had “suffered a pay restraint” since 2010.
“Losing around 14% in real terms of their pay, staff are struggling nationwide and many have been pushed into poverty,” she said.
“The impact of the pay restraint is harsh,” she said. “Many are sadly leaving the professions they love. There is an NHS staff crisis.”
Ms Tiplady quoted a Nursing Times story that warned last April that London nurses were being priced out of capital by housing costs.
She said: “In London we lack 10,000 nurses. Yet two fifths of nurses living in the capital plan to leave as they are unable to pay their rent.”
She added: “Staff reporting using food banks and hardship funds is increasing. The pay restraint must end.”
Nurse’s pay rise petition passes key milestone
Former chancellor George Osborne announced in the summer of 2015 that the government planned for annual AfC salary rises to continue to be restricted to 1% from 2016-17 for the next four years.
He said the move, which came on top of a similar freeze on basic pay increases imposed in 2010, would save around £5bn by 2019-20.
The annual salary review process for NHS staff on the Agenda for Change contract is currently underway for 2017-18.
After collecting evidence from unions, employers and the DH, the independent NHS pay review body will make a remuneration recommendation to ministers, who can then choose to accept or reject it.