NURSES ON BREADLINE; Sunday Mirror Investigates: Shocking Hardship Facing Backbone of Nhs Staff Most Now off by PS2,000 a Year Two out of Three Consider Quitting NHS Hundreds Suffering from Stress Illnesses

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Byline: NICK OWENS nick.owens@sundaymirror.co.uk

SOARING numbers of NHS nurses are so poor they are applying for cash hardship grants and going to food banks.

A Sunday Mirror investigation today reveals that hundreds of nurses in the past year have asked for handouts to help them make ends meet.

The startling statistic shows how nurses are being left on the breadline as they face the effects of the Tory-led Coalition's two-year pay freeze. The freeze, coupled with the rising cost of living, means nursing income has fallen by nine per cent in the past two years.

They have also been hit by a new charge of PS100 each year to register as a nurse.

It has led to some joining queues at food banks while others are asking for help paying for essentials such as their children's school uniforms.

Things are so bad that it has led to a 38 per cent increase in the number of nurses seeking counselling as they battle with stress.

In the past year, 1,307 NHS nurses were treated for stress-related illnesses - and experts warn it is only going to get worse.

Under the current Government nurses are more than PS2,000 worse off a year, with an average starting salary of just over PS21,000 a year... PS7,000 less than the average wage. Two-thirds say they have considered quitting over the past year.

Today nurses struggling to feed their families reveal what life is like as they bear the brunt of David Cameron's austerity measures. One told the Sunday Mirror: "I've had to take two weeks off with stress this year.

"I hated having to stay off sick because it left my colleagues overstretched but I was physically and mentally exhausted."

Nursing leaders hit out at the Prime Minister saying he has devastated the lives and morale of NHS staff.

The crisis facing our nurses has emerged in figures released by the Royal College of Nursing. The union's charity arm, the Benevolent Fund, dishes out "hardship grants" of several hundred pounds to nurses in the most urgent need of help paying their bills.

ALARM Since the Tories won power, applications for payments have risen by 83 per cent. But the union has been able to award only 318 grants out of almost 500 applications meaning dozens of nurses who said they needed help had to go without.

Jacqui Jablaoui, head of RCN member support services, said: "Nurses don't turn to us lightly. Remember these are men and women who spend their lives helping others. But the sad reality is that we are seeing a big increase in applications from nurses who say they can't afford to pay for the basics. …