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NHS staff survey: nurses vent unhappiness with pay and staffing

Nursing staff tell the NHS they are underpaid, under-recognised and undermined by chronic workforce shortages as they battle to maintain care standards
Exhausted nurses sits slumped on the floor

Nursing staff tell the NHS they are underpaid, under-recognised and undermined by chronic workforce shortages as they battle to maintain care standards

Fewer than a third of NHS staff are happy with their pay, the latest NHS staff survey suggests.

The annual findings show just 32.7% of health service workers responding said they are satisfied with their pay, down from 36.7% in 2020.

Just over half say they are properly recognised for good performance, the lowest satisfaction level for five years.

Staffing pressures and burnout are a theme of this year’s responses. Just 27.2% of NHS staff think their organisation has sufficient staff – falling from 38% last year.

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Nursing staff tell the NHS they are underpaid, under-recognised and undermined by chronic workforce shortages as they battle to maintain care standards

Exhausted nurses sits slumped on the floor
Picture: ATA/iStock

Fewer than a third of NHS staff are happy with their pay, the latest NHS staff survey suggests.

The annual findings show just 32.7% of health service workers responding said they are satisfied with their pay, down from 36.7% in 2020.

Just over half say they are properly recognised for good performance, the lowest satisfaction level for five years.

Staffing pressures and burnout are a theme of this year’s responses. Just 27.2% of NHS staff think their organisation has sufficient staff – falling from 38% last year.

Nurses are sending the message they are exhausted

RCN director for England Patricia Marquis said: ‘Nursing staff have sent a clear message that they’re exhausted and staff shortages are undermining their efforts to give safe and effective care.

‘More than half who responded said they feel burnt-out at the end of their working day and four out of five feel there aren’t enough staff in their organisation for them to do their job properly. This will do nothing to reassure the public.’

Unison head of health Sara Gorton said the scale of concerns about care standards should be a ‘huge blue flashing light for the government’.

‘A dramatic drop in satisfaction with pay in just a year bears out everything unions have warned. Without an urgent and significant wage rise, NHS staff will simply go for better pay and less stress elsewhere, which is a disaster for patient care,’ she said.

NHS staff survey findings at a glance

Picture: ATA
  • 51.9% said they received proper recognition for good performance
  • 46.8% have felt unwell as a result of work-related stress in the last 12 months
  • 23% said that they will probably look for a job at a new organisation in the next 12 months, with 16.6% saying that they intend to leave as soon as possible
  • 59.4% would recommend their organisation as a place to work
  • 9.1% reported being discriminated against by managers or colleagues in the past year. This rose to 17% among black, Asian and minority ethnic staff – up from 14.5% in 2019
  • Response rate was 48%, with a total number of staff responding 648,594 out of a possible 1.3 million

Source: NHS staff survey 2021

Health unions’ position on NHS pay

The stark findings of the survey come amid growing anger among nurses and unions over the pay of NHS workers.

The RCN is campaigning for a 12.5% pay rise in 2022-23, but the government has suggested a pay rise of no more than 3%, insisting a higher rise would hamper the health service’s ability to tackle its treatment backlog.

Unison has warned without a significant wage boost, NHS workforce shortages will worsen as staff seek better-paid, less stressful jobs.

A recent Unison survey of more than 9,000 NHS staff in England, found almost half are seriously considering leaving the next year. Around one in six say they are looking for work elsewhere.

Of those seriously considering leaving, 60% are looking for better pay, while one in five want less pressure.


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