Politics

‘Living in London on a nurse’s salary leaves me feeling helpless and bitter’

A nurse has spoken of feeling “bitter” and frustrated that her low salary will force her out of London if she ever wants to start a family or buy a house.

Amy Fancourt’s career began in 2020 when, still a student, she was drafted to A&E to provide cover while hospitals were struggling with Covid patients.

After the 28-year-old qualified in October and became a staff nurse, she was understandably excited to receive her first pay cheque.

But she recalls feeling “gutted” by the numbers looking back at her, which barely offset the loss of her student bursary.

“I didn’t feel like it really reflected the work I was doing, especially during the pandemic,” said Ms Fancourt, who now works in the neuroscience department of an East London Hospital.

“I live pay cheque to pay cheque so there’s no space for any savings. The idea of buying a house… it’s not even an option.

Ms Fancourt spoke up for the Royal College of Nursing’s campaign for the next London Mayor to give nurses free travel on the Tube and buses

“My take-home pay can depend on the hours I work but it’s usually between £1,400 or £1,700 a month.

“I know my time in London is limited because at some point if I want to have a family, it’s completely unfeasible for me.”

Like many Londoners in their twenties, she shares a three-bed house and pays rent of £700 a month.

“I live in Clapton [Hackney], which used to be the ‘murder mile’. It’s not particularly glamorous but it’s not overly gentrified either, and therefore not completely unaffordable,” she said.

Whilst she lives far away from the London Underground, she saves “a fortune” by cycling for a total of 60 minutes for each shift.

She continued: “As a nurse you’re dealing with humans at their most extreme and you don’t have much left to look after yourself.

“After a stressful day and you’re feeling crap, then your pay comes through and you just think ‘what am I doing this for?’.

“After your rent and bills and student debt come out of it, you’re left with very little to enjoy yourself and do things for your own well-being, or even go on holiday.

“It leaves me feeling helpless, and frustrated as well.”

The (RCN) Royal College of Nursing – the trade union for NHS nurses – said nurses’ struggle with the cost of living is contributing to a massive shortage of staff in London’s hospitals.

There are nearly 8,500 nursing vacancies across the capital, which the RCN says is the highest vacancy rate in England, at 11.9 per cent.

A survey of its members found that 57 per are considering or planning to leave London in the next five years.

The Government announced earlier this year that nurses would receive a one per cent pay rise, after a year of the pandemic.

“That’s actually a pay cut after inflation. It makes me feel very sarcastic and bitter,” she said.

With the London mayoral election on May 6, candidates from all the main parties are flogging policies for how to build more homes and improve the capital’s transport.

But the RCN is calling for big interventions to stop the capital bleeding away its supply of nurses.

Like Met Police officers, they say nurses should receive free travel passes across TfL’s networks. And that the next mayor should set strict policies for developers to build more affordable housing for nurses.

“I didn’t even know police had free travel… that would really help nurses and healthcare professionals,” Ms Fancourt added.

“I wouldn’t even consider applying for a job at a hospital in central London like UCLH [University College Hospital] because you would have to live even closer to central London or pay even more for transport.”

So what do the mayoral candidates say they’ll do? To find out, the Local Democracy Reporting Service has asked the candidates from Labour the Conservatives, Greens and Liberal Democrats.

'Living in London on a nurse's salary leaves me feeling helpless and bitter'
The four mayoral candidates from the major political parties, clockwise from left, Sadiq Khan (Labour), Shaun Bailey (Conservative) Louis Porritt (Liberal Democrat) and Sian Berry (Green Party)

A spokesperson for Sadiq Khan (Labour) said health, transport and fire service workers will be given “priority for new low-cost, intermediate homes”, as well as “additional support with accessing the Santander bike hire scheme”.

The Conservatives’ Shaun Bailey said: “As mayor, I will ringfence half of all affordable homes built by City Hall for key workers. That means nurses, doctors and key workers will get priority when it comes to affordable homes.”

He also promised to “reverse” Sadiq Khan’s increases in council tax, the Congestion Charge and expansion of the Ultra Low Emissions Zone for motorists.

The Green Party’s Sian Berry said she would give free travel to all NHS nurses, and spend £500 million to buy up existing homes and rent them to key workers “at a living rent”.

The Lib Dems’ Luisa Porritt was unable to provide a comment in time. But she has promised to increase the supply of affordable housing by converting empty offices into flats.

If you have a story about the mayoral election that you would like to share with us, please email: [email protected]



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