High cost of living makes nurses in London dream of relocation

RCN calls for action on rents and transport as costs fuel region’s nursing shortage

RCN calls for action on rents and transport as costs fuel region’s nursing shortage

Picture: Alamy

More than half of nurses living in London want to leave because they are being priced out by soaring living costs, a survey suggests.

RCN London, which carried out the survey, is now calling for an urgent review by London's mayor, to include exploring rent controls across private rented sector and free travel for nursing staff.

Housing and transport costs are high and rising

One in four of the 1,400 nurses who responded to the survey say they are increasingly worried about their finances.

Accommodation and transport costs were cited as the two major reasons for nurses wanting to leave London in the next five years.

In Greater London, average monthly private rents have increased to £1,473, up from £1,095 in 2011, and the region has the most expensive public transport system in the developed world.

What nurses told the RCN London survey

  • ‘I cannot afford to save any money… there is no quality of life while this continues’
  • ‘Cost of living, transport and childcare take all my salary and I end up with nothing’
  • 'In the last eight years I have gone from owning my own home to living in a bedroom with shared facilities'
  • ‘I feel guilty having to rely on my mother’s pension and borrowing from my 17-year-old’ 

Cost of living is hampering nurse recruitment and retention

RCN London says that cost of living is fuelling recruitment and retention problems in London, where one in six nursing posts – that's 10,550 – are unfilled.

In addition to rent controls, RCN London wants surplus NHS land be used to build thousands of key worker and affordable homes.

RCN London operational manager Mark Farmer said: 'Nursing staff point to the extortionate cost of accommodation and transport as the two single biggest squeezes on their pockets, causing them to rely on expensive credit to meet everyday expenses, fall into arrears and worry more and more about their finances. In this situation, it is little wonder that increasing numbers are looking to leave London.

'With London’s NHS still having the highest number of nurse vacancies in England, the connection between the staffing crisis and the city’s cost of living cannot be ignored any longer.'

In July 2019, London's Labour mayor Sadiq Khan called on the government to give him devolved powers to cap private rents.

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