One in five NHS workers needed more than one job to make ends meet, with some saying they worked up to 26 extra hours a week, suggest survey results from a leading health union.
The survey findings come ahead of planned strike action on Monday as part of the dispute between 10 unions and the government over NHS pay.
According to the online survey of 3,366 Unison members, 54% said they are overdrawn every month and half said they would not survive without a second source of income.
“The government needs to step back from the brink and reconsider its pay policy urgently”
Examples of back-up jobs taken included lifeguard, tourist guide, exam invigilator, farm worker, hairdresser, driving instructor, gardener, delivery driver, dog groomer and maintenance worker.
Some respondents said they started their own businesses or did extra shifts in hospitals – even though this was often at a lower rate – as their NHS salary was not enough for them to live on.
Despite this, half said they also had to borrow to make ends meet. Nearly six out of ten (57%) relied on credit cards, 41% on friends and family, 37% turn to bank loans and 13% resorted to pay day loans.
The survey also revealed that two thirds of those who responded had to cut back on food, 51% had reduced their energy usage, and 44% had cut back on transport costs.
Addition, 80-90% had to cut back on holidays and leisure, leaving them with little opportunity to recuperate, said Unison.
The survey results follow recent ballots in favour of strike action in response to the government in England’s decision to reject the NHS Pay Review Body’s recommendation to increase the pay of all staff in Agenda for Change by 1%.
NHS members from Unison, Unite, the GMB and the Royal College of Midwives will be staging a four-hour stoppage between 7am and 11am on Monday 13 October in England. Unite members in Northern Ireland will also strike later in the day.
The stoppage will be followed by an action short of strike action between Tuesday 15 and Friday 17 October when workers will ensure they take their breaks.
Unison head of health Christina McAnea said: “It’s time NHS workers get a fair deal for the invaluable work they do. The government needs to step back from the brink and reconsider its pay policy urgently.”
She added: “The government is refusing to acknowledge that there is a real poverty problem affecting NHS workers. A demotivated, stressed workforce is bad for patients and bad for the NHS.”
Follow all the news from the strike on Monday by visiting the Nursing Times website.