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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 April 2007, 11:08 GMT 12:08 UK
Footballers highlight nurse woes
By Nick Triggle
BBC News, health reporter

Sonia Vanner
Sonia Vanner has struggled financially
Footballers and nurses are world's apart.

The highest-earning Premiership players take home in excess of 100,000 a week - it takes the average nurse four years to earn that.

But now the two professions are forging an unlikely alliance under the Mayday for Nurses campaign to help raise awareness about the plight nurses face.

Sonia Vanner, like many nurses, is in debt. She is due to qualify from her training course in August and is hoping to secure a 19,000-post for newly-graduated nurses.

She has run up a 14,000 debt despite working nights and weekend in pubs to make ends meet.

You wonder if you will be able to keep your head above water
Sonia Vanner

The mother-of-two, from Cambridge, has had to pay out 600 a month in childcare costs - which alone is more than her monthly bursary brings in.

The 30-year-old said: "It has been tough and it does not get any easier when you graduate.

"I will be getting about 1,000 a month when I start work so I don't know how I will get out of the debt.

"So many nurses are in my position and it is really depressing.

"Six months ago, I was scared about my future in the profession. You wonder if you will be able to keep your head above water."

Hardship fund

Ms Vanner was full of praise for the work of Live 8 organiser Noreena Hertz, who is running the Mayday for Nurses campaign.

Noreena Hertz with members of Reading FC
Noreena Hertz has support from Reading players

Ms Hertz is hoping to sign up all 556 top-flight footballers as well as managers to give up a day's pay.

The money raised will go towards a hardship fund for nurses in financial difficulties in their first few years of their career.

Ms Vanner said: "It is something I will look at using, I am sure many of the other new nurses will too. You need all the help you can get."

However, the campaign is not just about raising money for the country's 400,000 nurse workforce.

Ms Hertz said she had been inspired by nurses who had helped her mother fight cancer.

She said it was a unfair that nurses are among the lowest paid professionals in the public sector.

"A mid-career nurse will earn on average a third less than teachers. It is about the value we place on the caring profession."

Praise, but no action

Ms Hertz said the government was full of praise for nurses, but did not back up those words with actions.

Thierry Henry
Thierry Henry has backed the campaign

She said it was wrong that nurses were having to fight for a 2.5% pay increase - nurses are currently talking about industrial action after ministers said they would phase in the rise.

"I want to see nurses paid more, but it is not just about jobs. It is about security - newly graduated nurses should be guaranteed a position in England as they are in Scotland.

"Footballers are the stars of today, each has a fanbase, people watch their every move so we want to use players to raise the profile of the crisis nurses are facing."

She said the footballers she had met had been positive about the campaign.

She has now got 73 players on board, including Arsenal striker Thierry Henry, Manchester United captain Gary Neville and the entire first-team squads of Reading and Fulham.

But she admitted she still has a long way to go before the campaign ends on 13 May - the last day of the season.

"We need more players to come forward. We have got about 500,000 pledged so far and should get to 1m by the end.

"But we still have a long way to go if we are to get everyone on board."

NHS workforce 'falls by 11,000'
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