Poor pay and treatment leads to a sharp rise in nurses planning on leaving the profession

There are already approximately 40,000 nursing vacancies in the NHS in England alone.

Laura Townsend
17 July 2020
Nurse wearing PPE

A sharp rise in those considering leaving is a serious cause for alarm.

There has been a sharp rise in the number of nursing staff considering quitting the profession, according to new research.


A survey of 42,000 members by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) reveals that concerns about pay are the primary concern for the workforce.

The results show that across the NHS and independent sectors, the percentage thinking of leaving the profession has increased to 36%, or more than a third, from 27% at the end of last year.

Of those thinking of leaving, 61% cited pay as a primary factor, with other citing include the way nursing staff have been treated during the COVID-19 pandemic (44%), low staffing levels (43%), and lack of management support (42%).

The report warns that the increase in those considering leaving is a serious cause for alarm. Entering the pandemic, there were already approximately 40,000 nursing vacancies in the NHS in England alone.


Fourteen health unions wrote to the Prime Minister and Chancellor earlier this month requesting “immediate NHS pay discussions” explaining that while the applause and tributes have been a short-term morale boost, this is a “unique” opportunity for the government to show true support and acknowledge the hard work of staff.

Tensions have been exacerbated.

The new findings also show that while 74% of respondents felt more valued by the general public, just 18% said they felt more valued by the Government. The figure for the proportion feeling more valued by the media was 58%, and in relation to patients and service users it was 54%.

Earlier this week France approved a “historic” €8 billion pay rise for its frontline healthcare professionals.

Dame Donna Kinnair, RCN Chief Executive and General Secretary, said: “The responses from our members working in all sectors reveal how their professional lives have been changed by the pandemic. Existing tensions have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Earlier sticking plasters are no longer covering gaping holes.


“The Government must take steps to retain the nursing staff we have, as well as to increase entry into the profession. Investment in staffing and pay is about both patient safety and the health of our workers. That is how to strengthen all NHS and care services to help keep patients safe.”

The grassroots group Nurses United UK added; “We all know that if we turned up to a job, where our lives were put at risk because the Government didn’t provide equipment, to do back-breaking work, for less pay that a lot of us would end up leaving it.

“We need to be telling Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings that they need to do more than clap but value our frontline workers otherwise we’ll lose them forever.”

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments