Exclusive: Nurses have their say on the state of the NHS

More than half of nurses (52%) are considering quitting the NHS as work pressures continue to ratchet, an exclusive survey by Nursing Standard and the Sunday Mirror has revealed.

More than half of nurses (52%) are considering quitting the NHS as work pressures continue to ratchet, an exclusive survey by Nursing Standard and the Sunday Mirror has revealed.


The joint Nursing Standard-Sunday Mirror survey revealed low morale among nurses and a feeling
of being undervalued. Picture: iStock

A total of 64% of the 3,100 nurses who responded said morale was poor or rock bottom. But despite that more than 60% stated they were proud to work for the NHS in the survey.

Nurses and healthcare assistants (HCAs) described low staffing levels, high dependency on agency staff, declining service quality and high levels of stress.

A mental health trust nurse manager said she was considering leaving due to the pressure.  ‘Five years ago I loved my job, now I can’t wait to leave and find a less stressful job,’ she said.  It is not sustainable, the constant pressure and stress is making me physically and mentally ill.’

There is already a severe shortage of nurses in the NHS, with the Institute of Employment Studies last year (2016) warning that one in 10 nursing posts were unfilled.

Pay restraint

Unison health policy officer Guy Collis said that the high numbers considering quitting nursing showed the impact of seven years of pay restraint. More than 80% of respondents told the survey they did not believe their were fairly paid.

‘The impact of pay restraint is really beginning to affect the ability of the NHS to recruit and, crucially, retain staff particularly nurses and HCAs,’ he said. ‘The impact of that is severe and relates to the plummeting morale. We have got fewer staff having to do more. The bottom line is to give the NHS pay review body the ability to make independent decisions unrestrained by the government.’

The survey also revealed low morale and a feeling within the profession of being undervalued. Mr Collis added: ‘We need to see a commitment from the government to show that they value the nursing workforce.’

Helene Donnelly, Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust whistleblower, warned that the NHS was ‘haemorrhaging experienced nurses who don’t feel valued’.

The Freedom to Speak Up guardian and ambassador for cultural change urged nurses to support each other through the pressures of work, pointing out that high rates of bullying suggest this is not always the case.  ‘The pressure is not going to go anytime soon, so in the mean time we have to hold fast, support each other, and try and be positive.’

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