A crowd of nurses gathered outside St George’s Hospital to protest against the Government’s refusal to increase NHS staff pay.

Two little babies joined in yesterday’s protest, which involved a crowd of nurses brandishing placards.

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Francine Fox and Cynthia Davis

The event, organised by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), came after the coalition refused to uphold a one per cent pay increase for staff.

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Mike Smith, a nurse and chairman of the RCN’s Outer South West London branch, attended the St George’s protest.

He said: “Nursing levels are getting to crisis point. Many are retiring early due to the relentless pressures and shrinking rewards. District nurses are like gold dust and with the drive towards community focused care is it any wonder our acute hospitals are constantly overflowing?

“London trusts spend £60m a year on securing empty NHS estate, enough to pay most London nurses the 1 per cent recommended by the independent pay review body but over ruled by millionaire health minister Jeremy Hunt. We are standing up for nurses today to ensure this four year pay freeze starts to thaw.”

There were simultaneous protests outside St Thomas’ Hospital, in Lambeth, and University Hospital, in Lewisham.

The RCN is the voice of nursing across the UK and promotes the interest of nurses and patients as well as helping shape healthcare policy.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "NHS staff are our greatest asset. That's why at a time of severe funding restraint we have been clear that they should receive at least one per cent additional pay this year and next.

"We cannot afford a general pay rise on top of incremental pay increases of up to six per cent without risking frontline jobs and safe staffing levels.

"We are disappointed that the unions rejected our offer to discuss any alternative proposals on pay, within an available budget of nearly £1 billion. However, our door remains open if they wish to reconsider their position."