Nurses are quitting the profession to go and work in restaurants instead, an MP has revealed.
Birmingham Edgbaston MP Preet Kaur Gill (Lab) said pay cuts and a heavy workload were driving nurses to quit.
And the result is a shortage of staff in hospitals.
She was speaking in a House of Commons debate as a number of MPs demanded pay rises for public sector workers.
Pay for many public sector staff was frozen between 2010 and 2012 and then increased by just 1% a year after that, which was a cut in real terms while inflation was higher than 1%.
Chancellor Phillip Hammond suggested in his Budget statement last month that the pay cap would be scrapped, although future pay rises have not yet been announced.
Ms Gill said: “Kayleigh, one of my constituents, wrote to me outlining her concerns. A newly qualified nurse, she loves her job and is passionate about delivering patient care, yet she finds herself questioning her decision to join the profession.
“She has spoken to colleagues who have been forced to seek a second job to feed their children. She has watched nurses leaving their jobs for low-skilled jobs in restaurants as the stress of being a nurse has become too much.”
Ms Gill said The result was a shortage of staff, and she highlighted a study by the Institute for Public Policy Research which found in December 2016 there were an estimated 40,000 nursing vacancies in England, a vacancy rate of 11.1%, and 12,000 vacancies for healthcare support workers.
“If we cannot recruit the nurses, teachers and local government workers we need to provide the crucial local services that our constituents rely on, the very fabric of our society is at risk.”
The MP said many workers were willing to accept pay freezes immediately after the banking crisis but they were suffering because they hadn’t had a decent pay rise for seven years.
“There is still no end in sight for millions of workers, many of whom are low paid and struggling to make ends meet.
“When the pay restraints were first introduced, workers like me were understandably not best pleased, but many grudgingly accepted them. Not in their wildest dreams – or should I say nightmares? – could they have foreseen that, seven years later, such conditions would still be forced upon them.”
Wolverhampton South West MP Eleanor Smith (Lab) said she had been a nurse for 40 years but pay cuts meant nurses were struggling to get by.
She said:”I have received a number of emails from constituents highlighting the effect of the public sector pay cap on them. One of my constituents – a single mum of two, who is also a nurse working part-time shifts – has been struggling to make ends meet, and Christmas is fast approaching.
“She needs extra money but is unable to do extra work due to childcare costs. The cost of living is increasing, but her wages do not reflect that.”
And she said the pay cuts had led to staff shortages.
“I was approached by a GP on Sunday, who asked me to talk about the fact that he cannot get practice nurses in his surgery because the wages are too low.”
Birmingham Erdington MP Jack Dromey (Lab) said funding for pay rises could be found by fighting tax avoidance.
He said: “This is a Britain where we have a Conservative Government that stand back and allow tax dodgers to get away with it, and then the Prime Minister says during the general election campaign to a nurse that there is no such thing as a magic money tree.
“Yes, there is, and they grow on the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and Jersey, helping the wealthy to avoid their responsibility to society.”
Treasury Minister Andrew Jones told MPs that pay rises had been limited as part of efforts to cut the national deficit.
He said: “It is fair to remind the House that in 2010 we inherited the biggest deficit in our peacetime history.
“There was an urgent need to get public spending under some control, and that has been a key ingredient in returning our economy to health. The coalition Government implemented a two-year pay freeze, which has been mentioned several times by Members during the debate, but I remind the Labour party gently that it supported that policy at the time.
“The pay freeze was followed by a series of 1% pay awards for public sector workers.
“In the autumn Budget the Chancellor . . . reconfirmed that under this Conservative Government the policy would end.”