EMOTIONS are running high on the picket line outside Derriford Hospital today as 85 nursing staff go out on strike.

Union representative Stuart Quarterman said it had been a ‘difficult decision’ to take but they had been buoyed up by the public’s support.

Speaking to the bleeping of car horns in support, the nurse of 20 years said that everyone from matrons to health care assistants had, after much heart-searching, deciding striking was the only way to force the Government’s hand over improving pay and conditions.

He said: ‘We have had 85 people joining the picket. They are all in really good spirits. We seem to be very well received by passers-by. The [University Hospitals Plymouth NHS] Trust have been very very supportive of the people who are exercising their rights. We are all nursing staff, nurses and healthcare assistants all the way up to matrons.'

‘For years and years and years the resource has been removed, restricted and curtailed and it has got to a point where it is almost untenable. The staffing levels are incredibly poor. It is so difficult to recruit and it is just as difficult to retain. Staff are literally on their knees.’

‘The plan is to make the Government aware that we are not just whinging, this is is a proper problem and what we need to make the industry attractive enough to retain the people who are already there because at the moment it isn’t and the goodwill has been squeezed and squeezed and squeezed.

‘There is not one person striking today who hasn’t made the decision to strike with a heavy heart. We don’t want to do this. We feel we have been forced to do this because the Government doesn’t listen, or doesn't care.

‘It is quite an emotional thing to see so many people have made this very difficult decision.'

The Royal College of Nursing balloted its members on strike action after turning down a Government pay offer as inadequate.

Strikes take place today, with nursing staff from Tavistock Hospital and Derriford Hospital joining the picket line outside the Plymouth hospital.

Another strike is due to take place next Tuesday.

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