READING nurses are among hundreds in the South East to call on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to increase their pay as part of a spending review this week.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) wants a 12.5 per cent pay rise for nurses, claiming members feel “undervalued” and that they are being driven out by “poor pay levels”.

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Mr Sunak is expected to impose a public sector pay freeze in his Spending Review this week, but it is understood NHS nurses and doctors could be exempt.

Across Reading's two constituencies, 48 RCN members have written to their MPs calling for a pay increase in recognition of their work.

The breakdown of letters from RCN members in each constituency from November 23 is:

Reading East: 26

Reading West: 22

Across the South East, 1,679 RCN members have written to their MPs, as well as 82 non-members.

They help make up the 15,833 who have written to their MP nationally.

The RCN says the Covid-19 pandemic, combined with staffing shortages, has shown the public how deserving nurses are of “fair pay”.

NHS figures for June this year show the vacancy rate for nurses in the South East was 11 per cent, up from 9.9 per cent in March.

The RCN, which wants the 12.5 per cent pay rise for all nursing staff, is holding a virtual rally in support of its Fair Pay for Nursing campaign.

Chief executive and general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said: “There isn’t an MP across the UK who can say they haven’t heard of our aim.

“The sheer numbers of people who have written, asking for politicians’ support, shows the high esteem in which the public holds nursing staff.

“Even though nursing staff have tackled a global pandemic with 50,000 nursing vacancies in the NHS across the UK, the Government continues to undervalue them.

“It can’t hope to fill staffing shortages with our current poor pay levels.

"The Chancellor must make the right decision."

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On Sunday, Mr Sunak hinted he could impose a public sector pay freeze as part of his spending review by arguing it would be “entirely reasonable” to consider pay policy in an economy ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic.

Treasury sources have suggested that pay for NHS staff, including nurses and doctors, will be dealt with separately.

Mr Sunak also said £3 billion has been earmarked to support the NHS in recovering from the pandemic, including money to address backlogs caused by Covid-19.