The majority of nurses feel underpaid, overworked and undervalued, according to a survey carried out jointly by Nursing Times and ITV.
More than eight of 10 nurses said they did not have enough time to give patients adequate care and a quarter believed they had put a patient’s life at risk because they were too busy or overworked.
Staff shortages and too much paperwork were the most common factors stopping nurses from doing their job properly, they said.
The survey results were due to be featured this week in ITV’s new breakfast programme Good Morning Britain, as part of a special edition on nursing.
The findings are a stark reminder of the everyday pressures faced by frontline nursing staff, and their view that staffing remains the key factor in ensuring patient safety.
“Despite all the pressures, the public should understand that as nurses we do try our best”
Despite an increasing recognition by many hospital trusts that they need to recruit more nurses, the findings suggest there is still a long way to go.
This was further confirmed last week when persistent staff shortages were cited as a major factor for Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals Foundation Trust being placed in “special measures” by healthcare regulators.
Our survey suggested the vast majority of nurses still believe mandatory minimum nurse-to-patient ratios are the best way of ensuring safe staffing, despite their unpopularity with minsters and many senior nurses. Overall, 88% of respondents said they thought the government should introduce ratios.
The survey also provided frontline insight into patient safety during out-of-hours periods, such as nights and weekends, where lack of lack of experienced staff has been a long-standing issue for the health service. Last month, the president of the Royal College of Physicians warned in the Daily Telegraph that lives were being put at risk because of a failure to tackle the issue.
Around two-thirds of respondents, 66%, said they worried about the level of care that their ward, hospital or clinic could give to patients outside normal working hours. A similar percentage said their ward, hospital or clinic could not function at night, weekends or Bank Holidays without using agency staff.
A massive 96% of respondents said there is too much bureaucracy in the NHS, in spite of ongoing efforts to reduce it, for example by improving technology, and it being a government priority that is often name-checked in ministerial speeches.
“My job is great and I live it, when I am given the opportunity to go it well”
In addition, 76% of survey respondents said they did not feel valued by their manager and 86% said they did not get paid enough money for the job they do.
The strong views on pay comes after widespread anger from the profession over the government’s rejection of the NHS Pay Review’s recommendation of a blanket 1% pay rise for all staff in England.
A possible concern is that a significant chunk of respondents lacked confidence in their own work environment. Asked whether they would you be happy to be a patient in the ward, hospital or clinic where they worked, 57% “yes” and 43% said “no”.
This represents a slightly more negative view than that of respondents to the NHS staff survey for 2013. It found 65% of all staff would be happy to recommend the care on offer at their NHS trust –up 2% on the previous year.
Meanwhile, when asked whether they would encourage their child to go into nursing, based on their experience, 73% of participants said “no”, while 27% answered “yes”.
Although, the survey results highlighted the struggles faced by nurses, respondents remained positive about their motivation.
“My job is great and I live it, when I am given the opportunity to go it well,” said one, while another stated: “Although my responses are negative, I love my job.”
A further respondent said: “Despite all the pressures, the public should understand that as nurses we do try our best.”
Nursing Times surveyed 1,830 nurses between 22 April and 1 May. Most, 62%, worked for an acute service provider, and the majority, 41%, described themselves as staff nurses.
Our latest findings echo similar surveys carried out earlier this year, which together build a picture of the views of nurses on working conditions and related issues.
A survey carried out by Nursing Times in February to mark a year since the Francis report into care failings at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust found more than half of respondents believed their ward or unit was dangerously understaffed.
Another piece of research by Unison, involving nearly 3,000 nursing staff, was published in April at the union’s health conference. It found two-thirds of respondents said they did not have enough time with patients or enough staff to deliver safe, dignified, compassionate care.