Nurses' health 'at risk' by being priced out of housing

Staff forced to move far from workplace to find accommodation, RCN congress hears

Nurses priced out of affordable homes are risking their health driving long distances home after shifts, RCN congress heard this week.

Photo: Neil O'Connor

The issue was raised in response to a resolution, passed on the closing day of congress, which called on the RCN to lobby UK governments to introduce rent controls to improve public health.

Research shows private occupiers usually enjoy better health than those who rent.

The Lothian branch, which proposed the resolution, argued that rent controls could improve the well-being of vulnerable households by increasing the amount of money available to spend on other items such as food and clothing.


Nursing focus

However, the debate soon turned to nurses being affected by a lack of affordable rented accommodation and soaring house prices.

Neil Thompson, from the RCN's UK safety representatives committee, said: ‘Disproportionately high rent might be of no consequence if we still had acres of nursing accommodation that was subsidised for underpaid staff to live in.

‘Nurses have to move further and further away from work in order to secure affordable housing. The impact of this is that many people find themselves isolated or in risky positions of being too tired at the end of shift to get home safely.’

The debate heard how a recent survey of 1,000 nurses by RCN London revealed 40% were planning to leave the capital in the next five years because of rising housing costs.

But Mr Thompson pointed out that nurses working outside major cities were also affected.

‘Many of our idyllic tourist areas have exactly the same issues, because much of the previously affordable housing is snapped up as second homes,’ he said.

Katie Sutton, a final year nursing student from the Manchester central branch, said her search for jobs was dictated by which areas she could afford to live in.

‘I shouldn’t be having to consider whether I can afford to do a job where I care for people,’ she added.

However, South Yorkshire branch member Paul Smith opposed the resolution, saying there was no evidence as to whether rent control would increase the amount of affordable housing or have the opposite effect.

The resolution was passed with 41 against and 39 abstentions.


Further information:

RCN congress housing costs debate


This is a free article for registered users

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this? You can register for free access.