Nurses and midwives work long shifts without proper breaks and with limited access to food and drinks.
A new report has called for urgent action to improve the working conditions of nurses and midwives.
The report, from the King’s Fund – an independent health think tank, found that staff stress, absenteeism, and staff turnover had reached alarmingly high levels within the profession which have since been exacerbated by the global pandemic.
Specific concerns included chronic excessive workload, inadequate working conditions, staff burnout, and inequalities, particularly among minority ethnic groups.
An analysis carried out for the report suggests that the issues identified are having a significant impact on staff retention, with around a quarter of nurses and health visitors joining the NHS leaving within three years of starting.
Many nurses and midwives were also identified as routinely work long shifts without proper breaks and with limited access to food and drinks. A “worryingly high proportion” were also shown to face bullying and discrimination in the workplace, and verbal and physical abuse from people in their care.
The report set out several key recommendations including improved working conditions, shift patterns, workplace culture, team-working, support for new staff, supervision, and learning opportunities.
Fundamental issues that nurses face.
Responding to the report, Susan Masters, Director of Nursing, Policy and Public Affairs at the RCN, said: “We welcome this report, which further underlines the fundamental issue that nurses – wherever they work – are under enormous strain every day of their working lives. We at the RCN are calling for measures to improve the situation urgently, and this report helps explain why this is so important.
“Safe staffing and appropriate pay are key priorities related to wellbeing that we are campaigning on. Today, there are approximately 50,000 registered nurse vacancies in the NHS in the UK, impacting patient safety, and morale and wellbeing in the profession – and at a time when these are crucial.
“At present, really ambitious and well-qualified young people are really struggling with gruelling shifts, staff shortages and poor pay. They feel they have no choice but to leave a career they should love – at a huge cost to patient care. Politicians and officials need to grasp the nettle before we lose even more.
“Plainly, if we lose large numbers of nursing staff early in their careers, we will continue to face major staffing problems, and this problem must be addressed effectively.
“In addition, we have been calling for a fair and early pay rise for nursing staff. A recent survey of 42,000 RCN members showed that 35% are thinking of leaving the profession this year, with more than half citing pay as a factor. The government must address this issue now.”