Nursing staff ‘stretched to breaking point’ over pay and conditions

The Royal College of Nursing survey today lays bare the extent of pay restraint and ongoing financial pressures on the nursing […]

Ian Snug
15 November 2017

The Royal College of Nursing survey today lays bare the extent of pay restraint and ongoing financial pressures on the nursing workforce.

Just over a month after the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) called for an urgent patient safety review the results of the latest RCN survey show the true extent of the financial pressures healthcare staff are facing on a day-to-day basis.


Nursing staff are suffering such financial hardship that nearly three out of four say they feel worse off than they did five years ago, while almost a quarter have had to take on another job simply to make ends meet.

These are some of the findings from the RCN’s biennial employment survey, published today.

The results come ahead of next week’s Budget, when the Chancellor is being urged to address the issue of public sector pay after Jeremy Hunt announced an end to the public sector pay cap.

Of the members who responded to the survey, 70% reported feeling financially worse off than they were five years ago, while 24% say they are thinking of leaving their job because of money worries.


The percentage of respondents who say they are looking for a new job has also increased from 24% ten years ago to 37% today.

And 61% say their job band or grade is inappropriate for the work they do, a significant increase on the last survey in 2015, when only 39% said this was the case.

As a result of these severe financial and workload pressures, nursing staff are now less likely than at any point in the previous 10 years to say they would recommend nursing as a career to others – only 41% said they would do so this year, compared with 51% in 2007.

This response from a Band 5 staff nurse working in North West England was typical of those received:


“There are seven years till I can take early retirement at 55, then I will leave nursing and get a little job 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.  I really feel for the patients, but I have nothing else to give.  We have two generations of nurses in our family, but I am so glad my daughter has not followed my profession”.

Commenting on the survey result, RCN Chief Executive 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.

“The Safe Staffing report we published in September laid bare the terrible impact nursing shortages are having on patients; today’s survey findings, in contrast, show how badly nurses themselves are suffering from the continued underfunding of the health service.


“The Chancellor must therefore give a clear signal in the Budget next week that the Government will award an above-inflation pay rise to hard-pressed nursing staff in the NHS.”

Sara Gorton, UNISON Head of Health, said:

“These findings echo what staff across the entire NHS have been telling us. NHS employees as a whole are struggling to survive on just their basic pay.

“Cleaners, porters, paramedics, midwives, administrators and healthcare assistants have all gone without a proper pay rise for far too long. They work hard to deliver the best care for patients and their families in tough circumstances, and with limited resources.

“With inflation and interest rates on the rise, all health employees want is to be able to pay their bills, feed their families and live without constant financial worries.

“The NHS is already facing recruitment challenges. Giving all NHS staff an above inflation pay rise would ultimately be good for the health service and for patients everywhere.

“Next week the Chancellor has the opportunity to put an end to poverty pay in the NHS and give everyone a fair pay rise.”

The RCN is calling on the Chancellor offer a million NHS staff a lifeline – a 3.9% pay rise plus an additional extra £800 to make up for the real-terms pay cut they have seen in recent years.

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