Nurses and healthcare assistants from across Cambridgeshire held a ‘protest picnic’ at Hinchingbrooke Hospital to highlight their anger over the government’s public sector pay cap.

The picnic for pay saw NHS staff gather on June 27 as part of the Royal College of Nursing's (RCN) 'summer of protest' to call on the government to lift the one per cent public sector pay cap.

The organisation claims that many nurses and healthcare assistants are struggling to make ends meet, with some forced to take on second jobs or even use foodbanks, and if the situation is not resolved, staff will be forced out of a profession already struggling to fill vacancies.

The gathering at the hospital, in Huntingdon, was held towards the end of the day to help nurses take a break and highlight that many go through their working day without taking a meal.

Carol Evans, chair of the RCN's Cambridgeshire branch, said: "There is an unprecedented show of anger and frustration over the government's pay policy.

"We hear every day about nursing staff struggling to live on wages which are 14 per cent below inflation. This situation cannot be allowed to continue.

"Our members from Cambridgeshire held this picnic to discuss how we can take our campaign forward and get the pay rises staff so richly deserve and desperately need."

A recent poll of more than 50,000 RCN members working in the NHS found that 91 per cent said they would support industrial action short of a strike and 78 per cent said they were prepared to go on strike.

Chris Hill, RCN senior officer for Cambridgeshire, added: "Politicians need to listen and tell members what they will do about nursing pay. We're demanding answers on behalf of our patients as well as nursing staff. Without a fully-staffed and motivated workforce, patient safety cannot be guaranteed.

"With the extra threat to staffing posed by Brexit and the removal of student bursaries, the government cannot afford to neglect the workforce we currently have and there is a very real danger that without fair pay, many will leave the profession."