It is a pleasure to follow Anna Soubry.
As a nurse of 40 years, I can say that the issue we are debating today is close to my heart. I, like many other NHS staff, struggled to make ends meet with the 1% pay cap, which acted as a pay cut. Since 2010, NHS staff who have decided to stay in the profession have experienced a real-terms pay cut of 14%. They are overstretched and undervalued, which is making patient care in the NHS a real concern. The 1% cap is forcing many experienced staff out of the profession, putting strain on those left. Others are pushed into the arms of agencies where they could earn many times their normal hourly rate, and others pursue a second job to make ends meet, working extra hours to increase their earnings. This puts a strain not only on their financial life, but on their family too.
In my constituency of Wolverhampton South West, I have constituents who work as nurses telling me they are leaving the NHS because of increasing workloads, which has caused them great stress, and years of pay restraint that has left them feeling undervalued and demoralised. Many hard-working nurses are turning to food banks, facing missing meals and struggling to pay their bills. Pay has not increased, but utility and grocery bills have. The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust employs over 8,000, and 7,297 are non-medical staff. Another constituent who is a ward manager at a local rehabilitation hospital in Wolverhampton contacted me explaining how she had been fortunate to train with an NHS bursary and to then be employed there as a staff nurse since 2001.
In response to a recent question by my hon. Friend Grahame Morris, the relevant Health Minister said that the Government changed the funding system for pre-registration tuition and bursaries to the standard student support system. This change means we have moved away from centrally imposed number controls and financial limitations, and therefore the artificial cap has been removed. That is not the case, as the latest UCAS figures show that applications for midwifery and nursing have fallen by 23% this year as health students are put off under this Government. Under this Government, it is difficult to train and to make a living as a nurse. That is why I am proud to have stood and been elected in the 2017 general election on Labour’s pledge, in a fully costed manifesto, to scrap the NHS pay cap and reinstate bursaries—unlike the Tories, who have given out massive tax giveaways worth £70 billion over five years.