HEALTH workers are spearheading a demonstration in the streets of Oxford next month calling for urgent action to address the housing crisis.

Members of the Oxfordshire Unison Health Branch have co-organised the 'Make Oxfordshire Affordable' mass event in Manzil Way on Saturday, September 3, which will demand that more social housing be built and wage rises implemented to make sure workers can afford to stay in the county.

Ian McKendrick, communications officer for Unison and a nurse at the Warneford Hospital, said up to 6,000 people could attend.

He said: "This is all to do with the cost of living in Oxfordshire and the impact that's having on the workforce.

"People are having to spend a much higher proportion of their income on living costs, which is undermining public services and the local economy as people move away."

Last November it was revealed that average house prices in Oxford alone have reached £425,000 – 16 times the typical yearly wage of £28,600.

Staff shortages have bitten Oxfordshire's two main health trusts as well as its schools, with secondaries advertising for 289 positions - on average 7.6 per school - in 2015.

Mr McKendrick said: "People in the NHS go to London because they get £5,000 extra in weighting, or 50 miles north for a better standard of living, and local hospitals are paying hand over fist for agencies to plug the gaps. If we don't have secure staff, the risk of error increases.

"It's not just the health service that's affected. We need joined-up thinking about how we are going to support workers living in Oxford."

Organisers are also concerned that the controversial Housing and Planning Act 2016 will force councils to sell off property and tenants in social housing to pay market rents, driving further key workers out of Oxfordshire.

Abbie Bailey, 24, works as a discharge co-ordinator for Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and earns about £16,200 per annum.

She said: "Me and my fiancée live with my dad and we have been trying desperately to move out; we've been saving for a mortgage for the last two years and haven't got far.

"It's really frustrating. We want to stay in Oxfordshire but it might not be possible."

All are welcome to the event, which begins at 11am on the Saturday.

Other groups due to be present include teachers' union NASUWT, the University and College Union and the Public and Commercial Services Union.

Mike McEnaney, the director responsible for human resources at Oxford Health, said: "We and other healthcare organisations recognise that there is a problem.

"We are working with other NHS trusts and with local authorities to look at what can be done.”

Mark Power, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust's director of organisational development and workforce, added: "We employ around 12,000 multi-professional staff. Within a number of staff categories there are recognised national shortages in supply, compounded locally by the high cost of living and inadequate supply of affordable accommodation.

"Clearly maintaining a stable workforce is a key priority and we will continue to consider all affordable options, both in attracting staff and in assisting individuals to stay."