The NHS has too few nurses to provide safe patient care according to a poll completed by members of the public.
In a survey for the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), 70% of voters told YouGov that the NHS now lacks adequate nursing staff.
A similar proportion believes nurses are underpaid for their work. The exclusive YouGov research also found that more than half the public said they are willing to pay more tax to make the NHS safer.
Despite reports suggesting that Theresa May plans to lift the 1% cap on public sector pay, pay restraint remains in place.
The RCN said that industrial action is on the table if the cap is not lifted in this autumn’s Budget.
In England, there are 40,000 nursing vacancies, leaving health and care services without safe and effective staffing. Earlier this year, the Nursing and Midwifery Council said that the nursing profession was shrinking as more people leave the profession than join it.
Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: “The public can see the shortage of nurses for themselves. Ministers are significantly out of touch with public opinion. They should heed this warning, scrap the pay cap and help to recruit thousands more nurses for a safer NHS.
“Experienced nursing staff are leaving in droves - not because they don’t like the job, but because they can’t afford to stay, while the next generation do not see their future in an under-valued profession.
“If the Government fails to announce a change of direction in the Budget, then industrial action by nursing staff immediately goes on the table.”