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Nursing faced with fresh recruitment crisis as staff burnout takes its toll

There will be a recruitment crisis in UK nursing within two years, suggests a survey carried out by NT.

Of the 3,392 nurses who responded to the survey, 86% predicted there would be a shortage of nurses in two years’ time and 91% believe there are currently not enough nurses in the system.

The survey also found 27% of respondents said they were planning to leave the profession within the next five years.

Retirement was the main reason for leaving the job – cited by 40% of those questioned. But nearly a third (30%) of respondents said that burnout was the main reason they would be seeking to leave nursing.

James Buchan, professor of social science and healthcare at Queen Margaret University College in Edinburgh, said: ‘This flags up the big issue that is looming in nursing – that significant numbers of experienced staff are not going to be around in five years’ time.

‘The issue of work-related stress is one of the issues facing nursing that has yet to be solved,’ he added.

Rachel Binks, chairperson of the RCN’s critical care forum, said burnout continued to be a problem.

‘We don’t get many patients who do not need a lot of care because they have closed a lot of wards to get people closer to their homes. We are not getting enough students coming through and although we are trying to increase the number of support workers – that does not cover [the work],’ she said.

Nearly 90% said the government does not do enough to promote nursing as an attractive career and 41% said they would not recommend nursing as a career to a new starter. However, despite this, 76% said they found nursing a fulfilling career.

One respondent said: ‘It can be fulfilling but also quite draining – there should be more awareness of how being a nurse can really take it out of people. Some people just get really hard, others burn out and some just leave.’

Another respondent added: ‘My enthusiasm for direct care in the NHS dwindled due to the dysfunctional support systems for staff – the NHS expects 110% but gives nothing back. It monitors staff and highlights negatives rather than the strengths of its staff.’

Such views were also represented among those new to the profession. ‘As a nursing student I think the training and job opportunities at this time are appalling,’ said a respondent.

‘There is too much pressure due to the government expecting more from teams but with far fewer staff. I enjoy nursing as I am a caring person but I understand why nurses who have been in the profession for a long time are getting extremely fed up.’

Are you planning to leave the nursing profession in the next five years?



Do you believe that there are enough nurses in the system currently?



Do you believe there will be a nursing shortage in the next two years?




Readers' comments (4)

  • I will be retiring in the next 5 years

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  • I agree that there will definitely be a recruitment crisis soon, nursing is a tough career choice these days. Pressure on nurses is relentless and most nurses do not feel supported by the management of the trusts that they work for. Management is all about budgets and finance and definitely not about the welfare of the nursing staff.

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  • That all seems very credible etc., but how can we newly qualified nurses step in to those vacant positions in the next few years if those of us who qualified recently still cannot find work?
    Frankly, I am starting to suspect I'll be leaving the profession before then- if I cant find a first position soon. Then who will fill those vacancies- overseas nurses again?

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  • I have been in nursing since the 70s , fully qualified & experienced but hardly any incentive working in top band 5 as been overworked ,underpaid & burnt out by this present government making nursing ' cheap' by employing all the foreign nurses to fill the gaps to overcome targets & more ' managers' instead of 'hands on nurses'. No wonder the British nurses are leaving in droves to other western countries who will be more appreciated & rewarded !!!!!!!

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