RCN says most nurses worse off than 5 years ago, demands pay pledge in budget

Three in four nurses are worse off than they were five years ago and a quarter are thinking of quitting due to money worries, says a survey by the RCN, which is calling on the chancellor to signal an above-inflation pay rise for nurses in next week's budget
  • RCN survey shows one in four nurses are thinking of leaving their jobs due to money worries
  • Four in ten nurses say anxiety about money keeps them awake at night, while almost a quarter are taking on another job to make ends meet
  • RCN calls on chancellor to give a clear signal in next week's budget that hard-pressed NHS nursing staff will receive an above-inflation pay rise

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Three in four nurses are financially worse off than they were five years ago, says an RCN survey released ahead of next week’s budget.

A quarter of respondents say they are thinking of leaving their jobs due to money worries – with analysis showing a staff nurse now earns £2,500 less than would have been the case if  wages had kept up with inflation.

Four in ten nurses (41%) say cash concerns are keeping them awake at night, while almost quarter are taking on another job to make ends meet.

What nurses say in the survey

Band 5 staff nurse, north west England: ‘There are seven years until I can take early retirement at 55, then I will leave nursing and get a little job working in a supermarket. The pay, terms and conditions of working 12-hour shifts eventually wear you down and demoralise you. This is not what I came into nursing for.’

District/community nurse, live-in palliative nurse: ‘I have a lot of responsibility caring for end of life patients, and meeting all of the family and other loved ones’ needs. An important job – for rubbish money.’

Sister/charge nurse, London: ‘A 0-1% increment each year does not equate to the increasing responsibility that nurses have. That is why I don't blame some of my colleagues resorting to agency jobs, because they get better pay than working in the NHS.’

Band 8a nurse manager, Scotland: ‘When my daughter told me that she wanted to be a nurse, I was actually disappointed and thought, Why would you want to do that?’

The college says the figures and personal stories uncovered in its annual survey show a nursing workforce stretched to breaking point by years of pay restraint.

It urges the government to give a clear signal in the budget on 22 November that it will give the profession an above-inflation pay rise.

Shocking findings

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said: ‘The shocking findings we’re highlighting today demonstrate just how severe the financial pressure on nursing staff has now become. It is ludicrous that the health service is losing valuable highly trained staff simply because they can’t pay the bills at the end of the month.

‘What people don’t realise is that a large part of the efficiency savings the NHS has managed to make have only come from hard-pressed staff having their pay reduced every year in real terms.’

Other findings from the 2017 survey, completed by 7,720 RCN members, include:

  • Almost one in four (23%) nurses have taken on extra work such as bank or agency nursing.
  • 37% say they are looking for a new job, up from 24% ten years ago.
  • 61% say their job band or grade is inappropriate for the work they do, feeling that it no longer matches the responsibilities or intensity of their role. This is up from 39% in 2015.
  • Only 41% would recommend nursing as a career – the lowest level in 10 years.

Nurses were asked about their experiences across five areas including:

  • Pay and grading.
  • Income and additional work/hours.
  • Career satisfaction, development and progression.
  • Staffing levels and workloads.
  • Abuse, harassment and bullying.

The report will form the basis of the RCN’s evidence to the independent pay review body in December.

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