Former mayor Sarah Barber has left her job as a nurse at Ipswich Hospital after 24 years because she could no longer make ends meet on her NHS salary.

She said the decision to leave the NHS had been one of the hardest of her life - but she felt forced to find a new job that pays better.

Ms Barber is still working as a nurse in the public sector - but is no longer employed by the NHS.

She said: "I have been a fully-qualified nurse at Ipswich Hospital for 21 years and did three years training here before that. I loved my work and really felt it was worthwhile - but the point came where I just could not afford to stay."

Ms Barber said her new job was similar but with better pay: "I felt really torn because I really love the NHS and what it stands for but there comes a time when you have to look at how you can pay the bills."

When she told her colleagues that she was leaving they were very supportive: "They said they were sorry to see me go but fully understood why."

There had been many experienced nurses leaving the hospital over recent years but until now she had always planned to stay.

She has been a keen supporter of the NHS - and appeared in a Labour Party Political Broadcast calling for more support for it.

And she was also worried about the loss of experienced staff - although the East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) was upbeat about its current recruitment and retention record.

Kate Read is director of people and organisational development at ESNEFT, which runs Colchester and Ipswich hospitals.

She said: “We have focused heavily on recruitment and retention over the past two years, and this has made a significant difference in stabilising our clinical workforce, including nursing, so we can continue to provide safe, compassionate, and high-quality patient care. This is always our top priority.

“Our vacancy rate has reduced, and we are seeing an increased number of applications to join ESNEFT too, but while recruitment is a key priority for us and the NHS, we also want our staff to stay and develop their careers with us.

“We are working hard to reduce the number of voluntary resignations at our Trust by supporting our workforce, emphasising learning and development opportunities, and highlighting some of the many benefits which may be available to them.

“One way we are doing this is through our retention partners. They aim to improve the experience of our staff and encourage people to stay once they have joined ESNEFT.”