Many nurses using food banks because of a broken relationship or boiler, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan says

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Many nurses needing to use food banks are doing so because of a broken “relationship or boiler”, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan has suggested.

Ms Keegan told Sky News that “of course” she clapped for nurses during the pandemic.

But asked whether she is comfortable with nurses now being forced to use food banks, she replied: “Quite often when you go to food banks, something will have happened, you know, something will have broken down – either a relationship or boiler or anything.

“Usually they’re in an emergency situation.”

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Ms Keegan also told nurses there is no point in going on strike over pay.

“I don’t think there’s any point in going on strike,” she told Kay Burley.

“I would urge the nurses to continue those discussions, but the reality is if we gave massive above-inflation rises, not only would we have to raise a lot more money, but it would actually fuel inflation.

“This is the problem. We really have to tackle inflation.”

It comes as a nursing union representing hundreds of thousands of nurses in the UK is expected to vote to hold the first nationwide strike in its 106-year history.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) had urged more than 300,000 of its members to vote for industrial action over pay in the union’s biggest strike ballot.

The result of the ballot will be announced later today.

The RCN has called for its members to receive a pay rise of 5% above the RPI inflation rate, which currently stands at above 12%.

This request has not been met by any UK nation.

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Although the details of the potential strike action are yet to be determined, patients are likely to face disruption to operations and appointments.

Oliver Dowden, the chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, previously told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme that the government has “well-oiled” contingency plans in place for dealing with any strike by nurses.

In the event of industrial action, the NHS would prioritise the most essential services, he said.

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Recent analysis showed an experienced nurse’s salary has fallen by 20% in real terms since 2010, the RCN said, adding that nurses are working the equivalent of one day a week for nothing.

Health workers in other unions, including ambulance staff, hospital porters and cleaners, are also voting on industrial action over pay.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We value the hard work of NHS staff including nurses, and are working hard to support them – including by giving over one million NHS workers a pay rise of at least £1,400 this year as recommended by the independent NHS Pay Review Body, on top of 3% last year when pay was frozen in the wider public sector.

“Industrial action is a matter for unions, and we urge them to carefully consider the potential impacts on patients.”

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