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Poor pay causing staff to leave the NHS to work in supermarkets, NHS Providers warns

NHS Providers says staff are leaving the health service to work in supermarkets because of stress and ongoing pay restraint. In a seven-point policy paper, it urges the next government to take urgent action to tackle workforce shortages.

Politicians must consider when and how they address the NHS pay cap or further risk patient safety, healthcare providers have warned

NHS Providers say patient care is being compromised with trusts running way beyond safe staffing levels, and that poor pay was causing staff to leave the NHS to work in supermarkets.

In a seven-point policy paper, it urges the next government to urgently tackle rapidly growing concerns over the healthcare workforce where demand is outstripping supply of staff.

The organisation, whose members include acute, community, ambulance and mental health services, warns pay restraint, Brexit and a lack of a long-term workforce strategy are taking its toll.

Mental health shortages

Examples of workforce shortages include insufficient mental health nurses leading to delays in treatment and

Politicians must consider when and how they address the NHS pay cap or further risk patient safety, healthcare providers have warned


Patient care is being compromised by low safe staffing levels says NHS Providers
Picture: iStock

NHS Providers say patient care is being compromised with trusts running way beyond safe staffing levels, and that poor pay was causing staff to leave the NHS to work in supermarkets.

In a seven-point policy paper, it urges the next government to urgently tackle rapidly growing concerns over the healthcare workforce where demand is outstripping supply of staff.

The organisation, whose members include acute, community, ambulance and mental health services, warns pay restraint, Brexit and a lack of a long-term workforce strategy are taking its toll.

Mental health shortages

Examples of workforce shortages include insufficient mental health nurses leading to delays in treatment and consequent recovery, and a lack of community nurses making plans to move care closer to home ‘very difficult’, says NHS Providers.

Responding to the paper, Investing in success – NHS priorities for the new government, RCN general secretary Janet Davies said: ‘The government cannot ignore this warning from hospital bosses – poor pay for NHS staff damages patient care.

‘If it now pays more to stack supermarket shelves than work on the wards, ministers should hang their heads in shame. ‘

She added that years of real-terms pay cuts have left nurses ‘heading for the door’.

‘After the election, for the sake of patient safety, the government must scrap the pay cap and help to fill the tens of thousands of vacant nursing jobs,’ Ms Davies said.

Hunt quizzed

The paper came after health secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Sunday that nurses were paid a decent wage when he was quizzed on BBC’s Andrew Marr Show about why some were resorting to food banks.

But launching the paper, NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said: ‘Years of pay restraint and stressful working conditions are taking their toll. Pay is becoming uncompetitive. Significant numbers of trusts say lower paid staff are leaving to stack shelves in supermarkets rather than carry on working in the NHS. And we are getting consistent reports of retention problems because of working pressures in the health service causing stress and burnout.’

The paper calls for seven actions:

  • A long-term funding strategy to meet the needs of an ageing population.
  • Support for closer collaboration between health and social care, with an emphasis on quality of care not saving money.
  • Higher investment in frontline mental health services.
  • Investment in social care to ease the pressures on the NHS.
  • Funding to allow trusts to deliver care standards outlined in the NHS constitution.
  • Recognise the economic value of the NHS as an employer, promoter of research and ensure the life sciences sector is globally competitive. 

Read the report in full


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