We resign: more than 200 nursing staff quit trust in six months

Departures from NHS are no surprise – given the pressures nursing staff face, says union
Hospital sign for hospital in Belfast run by Belfast Health and Social Care Trust

‘Departures from NHS are no surprise’, given pressures nursing staff face , says union – which is why nurses need better pay and flexible working

Hospital sign for hospital in Belfast run by Belfast Health and Social Care Trust
Picture: Alamy

More than 200 nursing staff have quit one NHS trust in the past six months.

The stark statistic shows the scale of exhaustion and demoralisation in the workforce, the RCN said, with a senior figure blaming the twin pressures of long-term staffing shortages and COVID-19.

Nursing staff are demoralised and exhausted

Some 182 nurses – representing 4% of the nurse workforce – and 50 healthcare assistants quit their jobs at Belfast Health and Social Care Trust between January and July.

RCN Northern Ireland associate director Dolores McCormick said the figures come as no surprise to her.

‘For well over a decade we have been raising concerns about the shortage of nursing staff and it appears to have fallen on deaf ears. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it much worse,’ she said.

‘The RCN has warned consistently that staff are demoralised and exhausted. There has been no let-up for over a year and it is clear the system is struggling to retain experienced nursing staff.’

She called for better pay and measures such as flexible working to boost nurse retention.

NHS nurse vacancies and the lure of agency working

A total of 533 nurses left their jobs across Northern Ireland’s five health and social care trusts between January and July, a BBC investigation found, although it is not known how many of these were retirements rather than resignations.

And a July 2020 Audit Office report found there were 2,114 nurse vacancies in Northern Ireland.

Unison Northern Ireland regional secretary Patricia McKeown said staff may be leaving the NHS to join nursing agencies, with pay being a ‘major’ factor.

But she said: ‘These agencies charge a premium to cover staff shortages across the health service while vacancies remain unfilled.’

Health and social care recruitment ‘a real success’

The Department of Health Northern Ireland insisted it was working to address staff shortages and said it was achieving ‘real success’ in the number of appointments made since April 2020.

Belfast Health and Social Care Trust declined to comment.

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