Tagged: Department of Health

Blyth MP says North East has ‘unfair deal’ after missing out on emergency social care funding

A North East MP has accused Government ministers of ignoring the region’s “first class” healthcare when dishing out emergency cash awards.

This week, Westminster approved a £25m injection into social care for older people in areas where hospitals are facing the biggest problems over delayed patient discharges.

But of the 65 local authorities in England to receive the money, which must be spent by the end of March to ease pressure on wards by moving patients into care in the community, none are in the North East.

Ronnie Campbell, Labour member for Blyth Valley, claims the funding is “almost all southern based where local authorities haven’t been on the receiving end of same level of ConDem cuts as Northern authorities” which have still managed to provide “a first class service”.

And he accused the Government of bailing out councils who are failing to organise their discharges from hospitals properly, while not rewarding Northumberland, North and South Tyneside, Sunderland, Durham and Newcastle councils who are facing up to the challenges.

He explained:

“I’m very worried that local authorities like Northumberland are having their budgets hacked to bits and yet they’re coping with the transfer from NHS care to local authority care.

“They’re under enormous pressure to deliver other services to the general public yet Eric Pickles and Jeremy Hunt are rewarding councils which happen to have marginal constituencies in them. 

“This doesn’t seem to be the ‘fair deal for Northumberland’ local Tories are trumpeting – in fact, this ranks up there with the 20% cut to transport funding and £3m further cuts to the council budget as an example of how the ConDems are targeting the North for purely party political reasons.”

The Department of Health emergency fund was authorised by a special ministerial committee, which has met weekly to help the NHS cope with winter pressures.

According to NHS England, one in five hospital beds was occupied over the Christmas period by someone ready for discharge but unable to move on because of blockages in the system. About a third of these blockages were attributed to lack of social care services.

The average cash boost for each of the 65 councils is £380,000, with money to be spent on extra support for people in their homes and short-term places in residential homes.

Responding to Mr Campbell, Coun Peter Jackson, Tory leader on Northumberland County Council, said:

“The truth is that this Government has fully protected NHS funding from day one.

“Rather than acknowledge this or the indication that our local health care services are performing much better than others across the country, Labour are once again resorting to scaremongering tactics and displaying financial illiteracy.

“Mr Campbell appears to be deliberately misleading the public by confusing local government and health care funding.”

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Department of Health added:

“We planned for winter earlier than ever this year. We constantly review what additional measures we can take to ease the pressure on services.

“In preparation for the Better Care Fund, the NHS and local authorities are already preparing joint plans to work together better, keep people well and avoid hospital admissions. This money helps speed up that work for this winter.”

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 23 Jan 2015

Emergency NHS cash diverted south with most areas of North-East receiving just 0.24% of £2bn fund

Emergency cash for the troubled NHS has been diverted away from the region to areas mainly in the South, a new analysis shows.

Health chiefs in the North-East and North Yorkshire have been handed tiny increases in their budgets from the £2bn fund – most receiving just 0.24 per cent more.

In stark contrast, other areas – mainly in London and the South-East – have been given funding boosts of more than 3.5 per cent, for the 2015-16 financial year.

NHS England argues the extra cash is going to areas which are currently underfunded and which have “the greatest health needs, where the population is growing rapidly”.

But the decision has been fiercely criticised by Nick Brown, Labour MP for Newcastle East, who campaigned against a previous attempt to shift health cash from North to South.

Mr Brown said:

“This is highly political. Extra money is being found for Tory-voting parts of the country at the expense of the rest of us. The allocation formulas have been twisted to bring this outcome about.

“Those who die too young are the losers. The big winners are the geographic areas where people enjoy a long-lived, healthy and comfortable retirement.”

Tom Blenkinsop, the Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP, said:

“This is yet another clear sign that this Government is consciously and deliberately redistributing funds from our area to Tory political priorities in the south of the country.”

The Northern Echo:

The issue of CCG funding has also drawn criticism from local Conservative MPs, including Vale of York’s Julian Sturdy who told ministers of a “postcode lottery” in a debate last week, saying: “Why does Vale of York CCG, in particular, receive such a poor allocation?

 The analysis, by the Health Service Journal (HSJ), found the biggest increases had gone to clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in areas with Conservative and, to a lesser extent, Liberal Democrat MPs.

There are 53 CCGs receiving rises of between three and four per cent – covering areas where no fewer than 85 per cent of MPs are from the two Coalition parties.

Furthermore, some – unnamed – CCGs have been forced to revise their plans from April because they are now receiving less money than expected, the HSJ said.

The allocations – slipped out by NHS England late on the Friday before Christmas – divide up the £1.1bn of the £2bn which has been given to CCGs, which ‘buy’ treatments.

Announcing the £2bn injection in November, amid growing talk of an NHS “crisis”, George Osborne said it would “support the day-to-day work of our incredible nurses and doctors”.

But 11 of the 14 CCGs in this region will receive just 0.24 per cent extra, worth just £400,000 to Darlington, for example – and none will get more than 1.99 per cent.

Ten CCGs are gaining 3.7 per cent or more, including in Windsor, Ascot and Maidenhead, Bedfordshire, Bromley, in Kent, and in Slough.

The list is topped by East Staffordshire, which gets a 4.28 per cent increase – an extra £5.8m, for 2015-16.

The row has echoes of the controversy in both 2012 and 2013, when NHS England first attempted a big shift in spending from poorer areas to those with more pensioners.

It was forced to back down after protests that the “fair shares formula” would slash up to £170m of funding from CCGs in the North-East and North Yorkshire

This time, every area is receiving a rise of at least 1.7 per cent from April, but half the extra £1.1bn will go to just 54 of the 211 CCGs.

Announcing its decision, NHS England said:

“Every CCG will get real terms budget increase.

“More of the extra funding for local health services is being used to more rapidly increase NHS budgets for those parts of the country with the greatest health needs, where the population is growing rapidly, and where services are under greatest pressure.”

NHS England is independent of the Department of Health, which means its spending decisions are no longer announced to parliament, nor scrutinised by MPs.

Source –  Northern Echo, 13 Jan 2015

Northumberland : ‘Unfair’ transfer changes leaving patients stuck

A Seahouses man due to have an operation to repair a ruptured Achilles has been left stranded by new transport to healthcare rules.

Health bosses have changed the transport criteria, meaning some patients are expected to spend over five hours a day on public transport to attend hospital appointments.

Mr Vickers from Seahouses was informed of the change when he phoned to book transport to an appointment ahead of his operation on the 28th of this month.

He said:

“I would usually get an ambulance taxi but they told me I couldn’t anymore. The whole thing is ludicrous. Now I’m stuck, I can’t get to Hexham unless I get a private taxi.

“I was even more upset when they said after I have the operation, am in plaster and on crutches, I’m still not entitled to transport to get home.

“We had no idea anything was going to change. They said a new criteria had been brought in and asked all these ridiculous questions like are you blind, are you in a wheel chair, do you get housing benefit. I don’t know how many others have operations booked and don’t yet know about this.”

Berwick’s Liberal Democrat MP Sir Alan Beith described the new rules as “grotesquely unfair”.

He said:

“People have been told to get from Berwick to North Shields and back on a series of buses with no certainty their treatment will be finished in time for the last bus back to Berwick. Another constituent was told to take a two-and-a-half hour bus journey from north Northumberland to the Wansbeck Hospital for regular injections.

“Elderly widows are being told if they can use a local bus for a 10 minute journey into Berwick they should have no difficulty travelling on several buses to get to the Freeman.

“This is simply not acceptable and creates a huge barrier to healthcare for people in north Northumberland.”

Sir Alan said the situation was “even more insulting” to local people when they are being told they cannot go to Borders General Hospital which has a direct bus link from the centre of Berwick to the door of the hospital.

“This chaos all results from decisions of the Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group and the uninformed way the decisions are being implemented in rural areas,” he said.

It’s clear that people sitting behind desks in urban parts of south east Northumberland have no idea how difficult it is for people without a car or someone to drive them to get to distant medical appointments.

“I have raised this issue with the Chief Medical Officer of the Clinical Commissioning Group and I will be raising it in Parliament, where I have already been taking up the restrictions on cross-border access to health services.”

A spokesperson for the Northumberland CCG said:

From 20 October 2014, we implemented the Department of Health’s national policy where all new patient transport bookings are subject to a short assessment. The assessment includes asking a few questions about how you would normally travel for day-to-day activities and if friends or family normally take you to your appointments.

“The purpose of this assessment is to make sure that the people who require ambulance services are prioritised based on their health needs and that the NHS is making the best use of the funding it has available. We understand that this can be a frustrating experience and some people who have previously used this service may find that they are no longer entitled to patient transport.

“If this is the case, then the booking service is offering information and advice on alternative forms of transport.”

They added: “We are in the early stages of implementing this process and we would like to reassure everyone that we are continually reviewing issues and concerns raised to make sure a common sense approach is applied.

“We are committed to ensuring that patients who live in rural areas are not disadvantaged by the implementation of the criteria, however, we still need to ensure that this is applied fairly across the region.”

If patients have any concerns, queries, or you are unhappy with a decision, they can contact the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) via Freephone 0800 0320202, by text to 01670 511098 or by emailing northoftynepals@nhct.nhs.uk.

Source –  Berwick Advertiser, 06 November 2014

South Shields : Bedridden woman faces £60 bill for hospital taxis

A man  has told of his outrage after being told he’d have to pay £60 to take his disabled wife to hospital by taxi.

Joe Charman and his wife Lyndsay have regularly used North East Ambulance Service’s patient transport to get to and from hospital appointments.

But, following changes to the system by the Department of Health, the couple, of Ingleside, South Shields, have been told they no longer qualify.

Mrs Charman, 50, suffers from myotonic dystrophy, a type of muscular dystrophy that relaxes the muscles, and is unable to travel on the bus or Metro.

Mr Charman, 58, asked for an ambulance to take her to Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital next week for a heart check and clinic visit, and says their only option now is to get a wheelchair taxi.

But – with a bill of £30 each way – Mr Charman, who is a registered carer for his wife, says they simply cannot afford to go.

He said:

My wife had to have a pacemaker fitted last year because of her condition.

“She fell at home and broke her ankle in April and was in South Tyneside District Hospital for a while because she had a blood clot in her arm that they said had been because of the operation.

“She was sent home 14 weeks ago and ever since then, she has been in a hospital bed at our home.

“We have to go to the Freeman once a year for her heart check and muscular dystrophy clinic. We live in Marsden and have always got an ambulance.”

He added:

“I used to ring the GP and they would organise one for us, but this time was told I had to ring a different number.

“The man I spoke to wasn’t very nice and he said he had to ask a series of questions before he could book us an ambulance.

“He asked about my wife’s disability and how I would get her to hospital in an emergency. I said, if I had no other choice, I would get a wheelchair taxi and he said that’s what I’d have to do this time.

“It would cost £30 there and the same back and we just can’t afford it. My wife is on incapacity benefits and I get a small carer’s allowance.

“We can’t afford £60 to get to a hospital appointment, and she can’t get on the Metro or the bus.”

 “I’ve had to ring the Freeman and tell them we can’t make it. We’ve always been given an ambulance in the past and I don’t understand why it’s different now.

“We’re hoping the Freeman might be able to help us out but we’re waiting to hear back from them.”

A spokesman for the Clinical Commissioning Groups in the North East said:

“We’re sorry to hear about Mr Charman and his wife’s situation and the inconvenience this may cause.

“From October 20, we implemented the Department of Health’s national policy, where all new patient transport bookings are subject to a short assessment.

“The assessment includes asking a few questions about how you would normally travel for day-to-day activities and if friends or family normally take you to your appointments.

“The purpose of this assessment is to make sure that the people who require ambulance services are prioritised and that the NHS is making the best use of the funding it has available.

“We understand that this can be a frustrating experience and some people who have previously used this service may find that they are no longer entitled to patient transport.

“If this is the case, then the booking service is offering information and 
advice on alternative forms of transport.

“If patients have any concerns, queries, or are unhappy with a decision, they can contact the North of Tyne Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) via Freephone 0800 0320202, by text to 01670 511098 or by e-mailing northoftynepals@nhct.nhs.uk”

> Welcome to the wonderful world of the privatised NHS… it’s only going to get worse.

Source –  Shields Gazette, 03 Nov 2014

Survey shows 42% of student nurses in the North East are considering working abroad


Nurses’ leaders say a Government attack on pay will cause “brain drain” from the NHS as 42% of student nurses in the region are consider working abroad.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said the ongoing attack on NHS pay is making most student nurses feel undervalued before they have even qualified, and risks forcing newly qualified nurses to look for fairer pay outside the NHS.

A survey of the RCN’s student members has found that the recent decision to deny NHS staff a pay increase of 1% has left the country’s future nurses feeling anxious about their finances.

Peta Clark, operational manager for the RCN Northern Region said:

“The results of the RCN’s survey – which is part of a wider national survey carried out between July and September this year, shows that nursing students are feeling disheartened and unvalued by the current Government’s outrageous and unfair policy on NHS pay.

“NHS Trusts across the region are struggling to recruit and retain nursing staff. And yet, because of the Government’s refusal to pay a cost of living increase for nurses and health care assistants, we now have the very real possibility of seeing many of our current student nurses leaving the country to work abroad, where pay, terms and conditions are superior.

“Forty two percent of the current crop of nursing students across the North East and Cumbria told us that they are actively considering pursuing a career in nursing abroad, because the current state of nursing pay is so woeful.”

Countries such as Canada and Australia are currently actively recruiting nurses from the UK, because they know that the quality and skills that NHS nurses have are second to none.

Figures obtained by the RCN shows that 82% of student nurses polled across the North East and Cumbria are angry about the Government’s decision on nurses pay and 75% said the Government’s decision on pay has made them feel undervalued and unappreciated.

On Monday frontline health workers in the North East will strike in support of their claim for fair pay. Nurses, health care assistants, paramedics, porters and medical records staff across the country will take part in industrial action to show their anger at the Government’s failure to honour a 1% pay rise.

After three years of pay freezes and pay restraint, Chancellor George Osborne had said a 1% pay rise across the board was “affordable” from April this year. However, the Government then controversially reneged on this promise.

While some nurses and health care assistants still get their incremental pay increase, which rewards experience and skills learnt after a length of service, many are not be entitled to the rise. The Government has insisted it cannot afford a general pay increase without putting frontline jobs at risk.

A Department of Health spokesperson said:

“NHS staff are our greatest asset and we know they are working extremely hard. This is why despite tough financial times, we’ve protected the NHS budget and now have 13,500 more clinical staff than in 2010.

“We want to protect these increases and cannot afford incremental pay increases – which disproportionately reward the highest earners – on top of a general pay rise without risking frontline NHS jobs. We remain keen to meet with the unions to discuss how we can work together to make the NHS pay system fairer and more affordable.”

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle –  08 Oct 2014

Real terms cut in public health budgets announced

Spending on public health in the region will be cut next year, it was announced yesterday (Tuesday, September 9) – despite Government promises to protect the NHS.

The amounts given to local councils – for services such as smoking cessation classes, obesity clinics, school nurses and drug and alcohol treatments – will be frozen.

The Department of Health admitted that meant a cut in real terms, after inflation, but said it was necessary because “the health budget is under a lot of pressure”.

Furthermore, it comes after cash-starved town halls have already been accused of raiding their public health budgets as they wrestle with huge cuts to their overall funds.

The cut was revealed in a statement to MPs, which announced that public health funding in 2015-16 would “remain the same as last year, at £2.79bn”.

It means County Durham will continue to receive £45.8m from next April. Other frozen allocations include Darlington (£7.8m), Middlesbrough (£16.4m) Stockton (£13.1m) and North Yorkshire (£19.7m).

In response to The Northern Echo, a department of health spokeswoman acknowledged:

This is a flat cash settlement – so it’s a real terms decrease.

 “The health budget is under a lot of pressure, so we are not able to increase it, but at least budgets are remaining stable and we are not taking money away.”

Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, linked the decision to the recent closures of medical centres at Skelton and Park End – with Hemlington also under threat.

He said:

“It is quite clear that our local areas NHS is being cut for purely financial reasons, with no attention to clinical need.”

Budgets for public health were transferred from the NHS to local authorities last year, as part of the Coalition’s radical overhaul of the health service.

Ministers argued councils were better equipped to tackle problems such as obesity, smoking and pollution and – ironically – that the funds had often been “raided” by the NHS.

The cut comes amid growing pressure to increase spending on the stubborn causes of ill-health, to cut the long-term cost to the health service.

 Yet both the Royal College of Nursing and the British Medical Journal have warned that services are being rundown – despite the money being, in theory, ring-fenced.

Cash has been diverted to areas including trading standards, citizens’ advice bureaux, domestic abuse services, housing, parks and leisure centres, they found.

But Jane Ellison, the public health minister, said:

“We want to see local areas continue their excellent work to help people lead healthier lives.

“The money has again been ring-fenced, so the focus will remain firmly on improving the health of local communities. This will be further boosted by an extra £5m to target priority areas.”

Source – Northern Echo, 10 Sept 2014

New ‘Jarrow March’ reaches London

The People's March for the NHS

A group of north east mothers and other campaigners who staged a modern-day ‘Jarrow March’ to protest at the privatisation of health services arrived in London at the weekend.

The People’s March, which followed in the footsteps of the famous 1936 Jarrow Crusade, began in mid-August.

After leaving Jarrow, the protest took in more than 20 towns and cities, with union activists and other supporters joining the six women from Darlington.

Organisers said 5,000 people took part in the last leg from Red Lion Square in Holborn to Trafalgar Square, where they were addressed by shadow health secretary Andy Burnham.

Speaking ahead of the rally, Mr Burnham said the “Darlo mums” symbolise the concern felt by millions across the UK for the future of the NHS.

He said:

“Surely even the great Nye Bevan couldn’t have imagined a group with more faith and fight for his NHS than these Darlington mums.

“In them, David Cameron has more than met his match and their fighting spirit will give hope to people everywhere that the NHS can be rescued from the damage caused by his Government.”

A Department of Health spokesman said:

“Use of the private sector in the NHS represents only six per cent of the total NHS budget – an increase of just 1% since May 2010.

“Charities, social enterprises and other healthcare providers continue to play an important role for the NHS, as they have done for many years – however, it is now local doctors and nurses who make decisions about who is best placed to provide care for their patients.”

Source –  Shields Gazette,  08 Sept 2014

Government again under fire over mesothelioma scheme

MPs have again launched a stinging attack on the Government following what they described as a “maladroit” review of claims for the asbestos-related disease mesothelioma.

A short inquiry by MPs on the Justice Select Committee found the consultation had not been prepared in a thorough and even-handed manner and it should be undertaken again.

Their report also called on the Ministry of Justice to work with the Department of Health to reduce delays in the production of mesothelioma victims’ medical records and highlighted the excessive average legal cost of £20,000 for every claim.

Middlesbrough Labour MP Andy McDonald, one of the committee members, said: “What is abundantly clear from our investigations is the Government never had any intention of retaining the exemptions they agreed to and which were secured by parliament for the benefit of mesothelioma victims and their families.

“The protective measures that were so hard won from the Government, which meant that victims didn’t have to suffer additional legal costs brought about by litigation funding changes introduced by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO), were simply a sham.”

Mr McDonald accused the Government and the Association of British Insurers of “dodgy deals behind closed doors”.

Last year, MPs from this region condemned a “roll over” to the insurance industry when they criticised weaknesses in the Mesothelioma Bill, legislation designed to compensate victims of mesothelioma who have been unable to trace employers who exposed them to asbestos.

Mesothelioma, a painful and almost always fatal lung disease caused 2,291 deaths in 2011, a higher number of which on average occurred in the North-East. This is thought to be because of the region’s background in heavy industry.

 The committee’s chairman, veteran Liberal Democrat MP Sir Alan Beith, who represents Berwick-upon-Tweed, said the Government’s approach had been unsatisfactory on a number of counts.

James Dalton, an assistant director of the Association of British Insurers, said the insurance industry had always been “open and transparent”, adding: “We make no apologies for negotiating with Government a scheme, paid for by insurers, that will compensate an extra 3,000 sufferers over the next ten years, who would otherwise go uncompensated.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: “We are considering the best way to get claims settled fairly and quickly.”

We will consider the report’s recommendations and respond in due course.

 

Source – Durham Times,  01 Aug 2014

North-East ‘ignored’ as Government announces £353m Birmingham hospital

Hartlepool MP Iain Wright has accused the Government of “ignoring” the North East after plans were approved for a new hospital in the Midlands.

 The Government has approved plans to build a new £353m acute care hospital near Birmingham using funding from the public and private sectors.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced approval for the Midland Metropolitan Hospital in Smethwick during a visit to meet NHS leaders in the Midlands.

But while that hospital is due to open in 2019, the long-running saga over a planned new hospital at Wynyard shows no signs of coming to an end.

Mr Wright said: “I think this reflects the notion that the North East is not a priority for this Government.

“In many respects they don’t consider us as a pressing part of what they do.

“We were the worst hit on cuts in the whole country, and they are taking far too long to make their mind up on Wynyard.

“All this ongoing uncertainty is not helpful to concerns over the provision of healthcare in our area.”

Hartlepool councillors granted fresh planning permission for the Wynyard project back in February after an initial application lodged back in 2009 lapsed following a series of setbacks.

That move put the ball back in the court of the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust to find the funding to allow work to start.

If it ever gets the go-ahead, the development will include a 568-bed hospital with an extra 66 day beds, 26 wards and 14 operating theatres.

The trust is waiting for news of a £100m contribution from the Government towards the £272m scheme

The planned Wynyard hospital would replace the University Hospitals of Hartlepool and North Tees, in Stockton.

The scheme which has received the green light in the Midlands has striking similarities to the Wynyard plan, with the new facility replacing some existing services at other sites operated by the Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, including the accident and emergency departments at City and Sandwell hospitals.

Referring to the project, Mr Osborne said: “This ambitious package will ensure that patients across the West Midlands continue to benefit from access to world-class acute treatment and cutting-edge facilities.

“It is because of the difficult decisions we have taken as a government that we have been able to protect healthcare spending, and announce new facilities like the Midland Metropolitan Hospital.”

North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust’s director of finance Lynne Hodgson said: “The trust’s independent regulator Monitor has completed its affordability assessment of the new hospital.

“Work is ongoing with Department of Health to finalise its analysis of the scheme.

“The Department of Health assessment considers affordability, value for money and the strategic fit for health care services in the Teesside area.

“It is hoped that this assessment will be concluded imminently after which the trust should receive a final decision.”

Source –  Hartlepool Mail,  17 July 2014

Health care staff protest outside Newcastle hospital over low pay for NHS employees

Frontline nurses and health care assistants gathered in the region this morning to protest against pay conditions.

Scores of NHS staff joined prominent MP Nick Brown outside Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital to show their anger at the Government’s failure to honour a 1% pay rise this year.

After three years of pay freezes and pay restraint, Chancellor George Osborne had said a 1% pay rise across the board was “affordable” from April this year. However, the Government then controversially reneged on this promise.

While some nurses and health care assistants will still get their incremental pay increase, which rewards experience and skills learnt after a length of service, many will not be entitled to the rise.

The Government has insisted it cannot afford a general pay increase without putting frontline jobs at risk.

Glenn Turp, Royal College of Nursing Northern Region regional director, said: “Nurses are working very hard and the number of people at our protest shows how angry our members are.

“It is baffling that the Chancellor said the Government could afford a 1% pay rise across the board and then that was reneged on. It makes no sense.

“What the NHS cannot afford to do is continue a policy of treating hard working and loyal staff with contempt, at a time when morale is at an all time low and trusts around the country struggle to retain and recruit enough nurses to maintain safe staffing levels.

“We see this as being a year long campaign leading up to the general election.”

Nurses, doctors, physiotherapists, paramedics, hospital cleaners and other NHS staff took part in demonstrations throughout the country.

Newcastle East MP Nick Brown said: “The Government’s continuing public sector pay restraint is not fair and not sustainable. It is particularly unfair on nurses and other low paid workers in the NHS.

“I completely support the Royal College of Nursing, hospital staff look after us in our time of need and we must stand up for them. It is important that the public understands just how shabby the Government is in treating key health service workers.”

Staff nurse Grace Onuoha, 53, of Walker, Newcastle, had just finished a night shift for Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust when she attended the protest.

The mum-of-three said: “It is very disappointing that there is not an across the board pay rise as we are working hard and doing a lot yet receiving nothing in return. It feels like we have been given a slap in the face by the Government.

“Morale is extremely low among staff as we are doing more and getting less. My pay is exactly the same as it was in 2009 despite the rise in the cost of living.”

The TUC, representing 14 health unions, said its research showed that health staff in England were “donating” £1.5bn worth of unpaid overtime every year.

Unions said that by 2015/16 NHS staff would have had their pay capped for six years. Pay was frozen in 2011 and 2012, and limited to 1% last year.

Susan Johnson, 47, of Killingworth, a senior sister in critical care at North Tyneside General Hospital, said: “It is frustrating because we work so hard and my concern is that we will put off future generations from joining the profession as nursing staff struggle with unsociable hours and are not very financially rewarded.”

The Department of Health said it was saddened by the health unions’ reaction to reject the pay offer. A spokesperson said: “NHS staff are our greatest asset.

“That’s why at a time of severe funding restraint we have been clear that they should receive at least 1% additional pay this year and next.

“We cannot afford a general pay rise on top of incremental pay increases of up to 6% without risking frontline jobs and safe staffing levels.

“We are disappointed that the unions rejected our offer to discuss any alternative proposals on pay, within an available budget of nearly £1bn.

“However, our door remains open if they wish to reconsider their position.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  05 June 2014