Nurses in Wales work 34,000 hours in overtime every week as staffing crisis deepens

RCN Wales demands a robust recruitment strategy and fair pay for nurses

RCN Wales demands a robust recruitment strategy and fair pay for nurses

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Nurses in Wales are working more than 34,000 hours in overtime every week, sometimes unpaid, amid a workforce crisis, a new report has revealed.

Estimated figures from the RCN Wales workforce report also show 1,719 nursing vacancies in the country, up from 1,612 in 2020, which the college says has led to nurses working beyond their contracted hours.

The RCN called on the Welsh government to develop a national strategy to attract and retain nurses, which should include collecting and publishing vacancy data in line with other countries in the UK. Wales is the only country in the UK not to publish this data.

Nurses under-resourced and under-rewarded, RCN says

RCN Wales director Helen Whyley said: ‘Nurses are overworked and under pressure, working many hours over their contracts to try and fill the gaps.

‘They are under-resourced to deliver the high standard of care required by their patients, and are not being rewarded with fair wages for the complex and safety critical role they do.

‘Workforce shortages will not even start to be resolved until nurses are paid fairly.’

Millions spent on overtime pay and agency nurses

The RCN Wales report found nurses were working 34,284 hours in overtime every week, the equivalent of 914 full-time registered nurses based one a contract of 37.5 hours.

While some of this overtime was unpaid, six out of seven health boards spent a total of £23 million on overtime in 2020-21, an increase of £10 million from 2019-20.

The RCN reported that NHS Wales spent £69.04m on agency nurses in 2019, the equivalent of funding 2,691 newly qualified nurses.

The college has also called for a review of COVID-19 recovery plans to address the need for additional nursing staff.

RCN ballots members on possible industrial action over pay

A Welsh Government spokesperson said the Welsh pandemic recovery plan will be backed by £1 billion, adding that over the past five years training places for nurses have increased by 72% and the NHS bursary for nursing students has been retained.

The RCN has lodged a formal trade dispute with the Welsh Government over its decision to offer a 3% pay award. RCN Wales members are being balloted on whether they are prepared to take industrial action.

Read the report

RCN Wales Nursing in Numbers 2021

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