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Two-thirds of nurses 'consider quitting' due to stress, says RCN

Almost two-thirds of nurses have considered quitting their jobs in the last 12 months because they are so stressed, a survey has found.

Swingeing cuts to the numbers of nurses in the NHS have left many feeling overburdened in their work and unable to give the care they want, the Daily Mirror said.

A survey of 10,000 staff by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) found that 62% had thought about leaving over the last year because they are under so much stress in their job.

A further 61% felt unable to give patients the care they wanted because they were too busy, while 83% believed their workload had increased in the last 12 months.

Official figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre last week revealed the NHS has lost more than 5,000 nurses in just three years.

Data for May this year reveals there were 348,311 qualified staff working in nursing, midwifery and health visiting, down 5,601 on the 353,912 in May 2010.

As well as staff cuts, nurses have also had to endure a pay freeze between 2010 and 2012, the Mirror said, followed by a 1% cap on increases from this year until 2016.

Rachael McIlroy, from the RCN, said: “Salaries have remained static while household bills are rising, and people are finding it really hard.

“Extra unpaid hours is an issue because there are too few staff, and job security is an acute concern.”

She added: “The pay freeze, staff shortages and negativity following the Francis inquiry means nurses feel hard done by.”

The Francis Inquiry highlighted the unnecessary suffering and neglect at Stafford Hospital, when hundreds more people died than would normally be expected.

Dr Peter Carter, the chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, told the Mirror: “At a time when patients are so dependent on the nursing workforce, the idea that so many are contemplating leaving just doesn’t bear thinking about.

“The reality is that nurses are caring for more patients, with fewer staff having less time. This just can’t continue.

“An NHS caring for a million people every 36 hours can’t survive with too few staff; you just can’t do good care on the cheap.

“These interim findings deliver a stark warning, and one that those sitting in Whitehall would be very wise to listen to.”

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “The staff working for our NHS are our health service’s most precious resource. Nurses are working extremely hard and continue to provide a high quality of care in the face of rising healthcare demands.

“Hospitals should make sure staffing levels are appropriate to the needs of their local population. Overall, the number of clinical staff in the NHS has risen by nearly 3500 and the number of admin staff has fallen by over 23,400 since May 2010.

“The government has also recently announced the new chief inspector of hospitals who will take action if hospitals are found to be compromising patient care by not having the right number of staff on wards.”

Jane Cummings, chief nursing officer at NHS England, said: “Nurses and midwives carry out a demanding role and, as a nurse myself, I fully recognise the pressures that they are often under.

“The Keogh and Berwick reviews and the Francis Report are all very clear that local care providers need to use evidence to ensure they have the right amount of staff, with the right skills, in the right place to deliver high quality care.

“This is a fundamental aspect of ‘Compassion in Practice’, the nursing, midwifery and care strategy for England.

“Central to ‘Compassion in Practice’ is the strengthening of nursing leadership and the importance of having the right culture and environment so staff have a positive experience and are fully supported to deliver the best possible care for patients.”


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Readers' comments (19)

  • It is so often mooted that nurses don't care about what they do, it is "just a job". Well, these results speak volumes. If the majority of nurses didn't care, then they wouldn't be stressed. I feel under permanent stress because I am not able to give the level the care I consider necessary, that is the level of care I would want for myself or my family and friends. When I am away from work I constantly think about instances of poor or shoddy care that I have been forced to give.

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  • I left the NHS after 27 years because I felt I was no longer able to stand by and watch care standards decline or be part of a service which puts patients secondary to Govt/Trust targets. When I made a stand I was bullied and targeted by hospital management.

    Having recently worked as an agency nurse in nursing homes (to maintain my registration status) I quickly realised that the situation there was even worse!

    What I find frustrating is that nursing, the biggest single profession in the NHS, can see the decline in care and (in some cases) the neglect and abuse of service-users but do nothing about it - they whine and moan but are afraid to make a stand.

    I'm now looking to opt-out of nursing altogether and taking an entire career change.

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  • George Kuchanny

    RCN where are you? Report on what is known = good. Do nothing about it = bad. So why no fixed ratios yet?

    Every ward should have a DNR notice on the main entry door bearing the RCN logo.

    DNR? Yes. Defined Nurse Ratio as set out by the RCN. I would expect to see 1:1 for ICU and (for instance) 1:4 for other specialist care all the way to whatever has been set by a deeply aware health and safety review of every single variation of ward in the NHS. Health and Safety review to be headed by a nurse of course.

    Written a bit about this very subject in another recent post, so I shall avoid repetition.

    Two anons 2-Sep-2013 2:00 pm and 2-Sep-2013 2:29 pm - yes. I expect a post or several will be made supporting your entirely illuminating views. I hope the RCN takes note.

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  • Good call all the above posts :-)
    There are so many issues that could be sorted out if RCN and Unison (for example) would just say enough is enough, and put some action into practice, instead of just playing the softly softly approach.
    Some would call it 'militant' but its really just the RCN making a stand and taking the lead.

    Don't try to be all 'nice' and 'likeable' to the government....lead the Gov by clear sharp action.

    We could see a massive amount of the issues (which we all whinge about on here) sorted out in a quick blow!
    Don't let the Gov bully or intimidate....just tell them what the score is.

    If the RCN took a stand ( 'proper' stand) then I'm sure its members would get behind this.

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  • I can't wait to retire next year. I never thought I would hear myself say this but I am stressed out due to the demands of trying to fit in patient care around the endless sea of paper work. Everyone one else I talk to in their 50's are also planning to retire as soon as they get the chance. Can't imagine what the NHS is going to be like in the next 10 years.

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  • anon 1.46 - there won't be a NHS in 10 years, it's on the way out. It's taken me a long time to realise that we are being shafted from every angle.

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  • Anonymous | 3-Sep-2013 6:13 am

    there will still be a health service requiring high calibre staff.

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  • Anonymous 03 Sept 7.51 am

    Yes, a health service requiring high calibre staff - but is any employer prepared to pay for it? I'm sure the NHS in it's current format will be diluted to the point of disintegration, and then we will have a two-tier health service, with effective health care only for those whose pockets are deep enough. Workers are funding the NHS through NI payments and getting less and less every month. It's a disgrace, and it will only hit them when they need a service and are told it's not available. A good example is cataract surgery, now only available for those willing to pay privately. If you haven't got the money, then forget it and lose your sight, and then when you can no longer work, just go and sign on. I'm sure this is just one example amongst many. I used to be proud to work for the NHS but I now feel ashamed most of the time, despite running myself ragged trying to provide the best care I can. I apply my own "Family and Friends test" - is the care I give good enough for those closest to me. Sadly, the answer is more often "no".

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  • I am recently qualified and have tried to Nurse and find it intolerable. From Interview to the floor, one is simply part of a complex machine. Your lucky if you get a caring Sister to get you over the initial hurdles. It's very frustrating, the chronic emphasis on rounding and paperwork. If you can't answer by rote an interview question, forget it! such as how will you ensure your patient is fed? I mean, you are answering the Marton's question NOT the nurse assessment and plan of care. Common sense, intelligence, care and concern... not good enough you have to know the paperwork back to front. Nursing could be a wonderful profession but it is battered, bruised and a quite horrible existence for the once eager student with so much ambition. (I now work elsewhere). I would remove the all too many and self-important Dark Blues and get industry hardened managers who will seek cohesive joined-up thinking to tackle the malaise, for example the militant HCA who works to their own rules. Of course their are wonderful staff, but that's not the point is it?

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  • I work on an acute elderly medical ward and for some reason we have an abundance of elderly female Healthcare Assistants. When we do get the younger Health Carers who are more able with the hard work, these elderly Care Assistants make life a misery for them.
    They have worked on the ward a long time and they have their own rules, often getting the ward sister to agree with them.

    My fustration is weak management and gossiping elderly Carers who are always there riding on the backs of others as they cannot cope with the hard work.

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  • I work in the community and as the ethos (quite rightly) is to keep service users at home, the amount of extra pressure put on us is intolerable. Learning new skills. Change of hours. Mentoring students and all the work it generates. I understand that the role is changing and that it is important to prepare students but staff are leaving and not being replaced but we are still expected to cover the work thrust upon us. I am so glad that I am almost at the end of my career.

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  • Anon 3rd Sept 08.03 I have been in this profession for over 35 years and for the same amount of time I have noticed that elderly Health Care Assistants have always ruled the roost. Many a time the Sisters are too frightened to say anything to them and they seem to get away with being lazy. The Sisters bend over backwards to ensure their off duty is how they want it too. Why is it that no one wants to upset these elderly gossiping carers who should have retired years ago?

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  • I work 50 - 70 hours every single week as well as during my annual leave and weekends. I love being a nurse, but like others here, am now looking to get out as soon as possible. My physical and mental health is suffering trying to keep my patients safe.

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  • While ever your unions sit back and just nod heads in agreement and not get nurses UNITED sadly conditions will be the same and governments will continue to use and abuse. I live in Victoria Australia where we have the most amazing union....but another thing is WE are the union, the nurses!! You need the union to start working for you and your patients. To demand that Government recognises that you need patient ratios, recognises that you need more RNs , unsafe conditions, recognises why there are increases in hospital acquired conditions and deaths! Actually they know, but are failing to act on it so long as you all plod along just moaning. And why do you moan, get stressed and get exhausted? Because your unions need to really do some work instead of just plodding along too. They need to get ACTIVATED! You pay fees to your union, they have a responsibility to you as nurses, and to the patients. I cannot see you getting anywhere without the union to get you all together and have massive meetings. You are thousands and thousands of nurses desperate with nowhere to go. You need that leader to be your union. If USA, Canada and Australian unions can do a good job for us, why does your unions not move!! Instead of stressing out on here over these awful issues, bombard your union with demands. We here are still having problems with Government this time but we will fight again if we have to, because we have amazing support. Oh my I am sure I have said this before on here :)

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  • Anonymous | 2-Sep-2013 2:29 pm

    this is a sticky one.

    You know that by standing up for what was truthful and honest, attempting to prevent the downward slide into rotten care, was the highway to being bullied.( And i do too, you are not alone, even if you feel it).

    Nurse have never banded together...I know this is beyond belief or understanding but they don't - they will sooner stab each other in the back or just abandon each other to being mauled by Management. So they are easy to pick off one by one by Management.

    i think it is something about the mentality of Nurses, we are easy to pick off because we take responsibility for everything, even the things we had no responsibility for.we can't draw any lines and say, this yes and that NO!

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  • Yvonne Bates | 6-Sep-2013 1:11 am

    It's always good to see your posts, Yvonne. I never have and never will understand why the nurses of this country don't make a stand. They moan brilliantly and call out constantly for the RCN to do something as if it is nothing to do with themselves, the members. I'm not sure what they think will change if they continue to do nothing.

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  • Ms Bates thanks for your post.
    I am so sorry to say nurses in this country lack the fight, its like Stay Calm and Carry on for them.
    Stay Calm and Carry on had its place and time, but they are still stuck in that time zone.

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  • 'Stay Calm and Carry on' is once what made British nurses so great and stand out from any other. maybe, sadly, that time zone is no longer appropriate. Up to you to decide, but lets hope you decision is the wisest one and whatever happens I am sure everybody hopes you will carry on. All the very best of luck!

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  • Unionism is the only way to go (I am from Victoria, Australia too). No wonder other staff seem to you to be doing so well and it's probably because they are highly unionised - recognise that fact, do the same, reap the same benefits. Without our Union here we would be in the same boat, and I can assure you, we are not. Get organised.

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