Nursing Standard survey reveals nurses' morale is at 'rock bottom'

An overwhelming majority of nurses consider morale to have plummeted since the coalition government came to power in 2010

The new government must act quickly to tackle low morale among nurses, according to our opinion poll for the 2015 general election, which reveals it has hit ‘rock bottom’.

We asked 4,413 nursing staff, including nurses and healthcare assistants, about their voting intentions and priorities for the next government, just days before the UK went to the polls to elect the next government.

Our joint survey with the Sunday Mirror reveals that an overwhelming majority of nurses believe morale has plummeted among staff since the coalition government came to power in 2010.

Nurses were asked how they would describe staff morale now compared with five years ago and an analysis of the 3,603 responses to this question showed the most frequently used terms by nurses to describe morale were ‘terrible’, ‘poor’, ‘low’, ‘worse’ and ‘stressed’.

The survey highlighted the factors contributing to nurses' low morale, including staffing pressures, feeling undervalued, nurses leaving the NHS because of heavy workloads and difficult working conditions, and pay.

Nurses have not been awarded an above-inflation pay rise since 2009 and they went on strike last year to secure a 1% pay increase for all NHS staff.

One respondent said morale is at ‘rock bottom’, adding, ‘I wish to leave nursing after 26 years as it is unsafe and staff are treated poorly’.

RCN general secretary Peter Carter: ‘Morale in the NHS is at an all-time low. Frontline staff have gone above and beyond to care for patients in increasingly difficult circumstances, but have been stretched to breaking point. The next government must treat this as a top priority and take immediate action.'

Unison head of nursing Gail Adams said: ‘Staff are regularly working through their breaks and overtime.

‘Despite going the extra mile so they can provide the care they want to give, that has an impact on morale.’

Morale is ‘better’, according to some respondents. One nurse said it is ‘better in the community team I work in but worse on the wards, which is an employer issue, not a government one’.

General election survey results

Of the 3,450 people who stated their priority for the next government, nearly half pinpointed safe staffing, while 35.3% highlighted a decent pay rise.

Asked what the new government should do to improve the NHS, popular responses included improving staffing levels and pay, and stopping privatisation.

Dr Carter said the survey findings should be 'compulsory reading' for the new government, adding: 'The NHS urgently needs a long-term, fully costed plan to provide safe staffing now and in the future.'

University of South Wales professor of nursing Kevin Davies said: 'Safe staffing that gives nurses confidence to be able to do their job properly is just so fundamental that any government looking seriously at the issue needs to take notice of the people who are at the coalface delivering care.

'If staff are saying they need better staffing levels and perhaps better skill mixes, they should be taken notice of. It can be only demoralising for well-meaning, compassionate staff to find themselves not being listened to.'

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