Nurses working in 'intolerable situations', RCN survey shows

Survey of 4,137 members shows almost one third are looking for a new job and 23% want to quit the profession

Nurses are working in ‘intolerable situations’ and are feeling undervalued to such an extent that almost one quarter are considering leaving health care completely, RCN research has shown. 

A survey of 4,137 RCN members in the NHS and independent sector published today showed almost one third of respondents (31%) are seeking a new job and 23% are looking to quit the profession.

Fifty-six per cent said too much time is spent on non-nursing duties and 59% said they are too busy to provide the care they want to.

More than four fifths (82%) worked when not feeling well enough to do so and nearly half of those (46%) said work-related stress had been a reason. 

RCN head of employment relations Josie Irwin said: ‘Nursing staff are placed in intolerable situations, working themselves sick and still not feeling they have been able to deliver the care they would like.’

She added that ‘there needs to be a recognition that care is part of all our futures, and we should value it, invest in it and train enough people to deliver it well’. 

The survey also showed:

  • 34% of respondents say bullying and harassment is a problem in their workplace.
  • 53% say they work extra hours to earn money to pay for bills and living expenses and 32% have worked night or weekend shifts to make ends meet. 
  • 43% say they have seen an increase in the number of patients they are being asked to care for.
  • 42% reported recruitment freezes where they work.  

The findings are echoed by a Unison report, called Undervalued, Overwhelmed, published last week.  

Both the RCN and Unison have submitted their surveys to the NHS Pay Review Body (RB) as evidence for the 2016/17 pay round. 

This is in anticipation of the RB being sent remit letters from the Department of Health and the devolved UK administrations setting out the approach for pay in that period. 

Targeted pay rises

The Treasury has told the RB that it will only fund public sector pay increases of 1% a year for four years from 2016/17 and pay awards should be targeted, so some staff could receive more than 1% while others get less.   

The NHS staff side, representing 14 unions, has also submitted evidence to the RB.

Chair of the staff side Christina McAnea, Unison head of health, said: ‘Our evidence to the RB demonstrates that what the service badly needs is a long-term co-ordinated pay and workforce strategy.’

A DH spokesperson said its most recent staff survey showed the majority would recommend their hospital as a place of work.

The spokesperson added: ‘We already have more than 20,200 extra clinical staff since May 2010, 50,000 nurses currently in training and our recent pay deal gave more than a million of the lowest paid NHS staff a pay rise.’

The RCN has said the number of training places in England for 2015/16 is not enough to tackle the nurse shortage or rising patient demand. 



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