Conversations about health and social care almost inevitably include some discussion of the financial pressures they are under. But this month, we reveal their personal impact on nurses, which can also translate into problems for services.
Cavell Nurses’ Trust, in partnership with Nursing Times, has surveyed over 1,000 members of nursing staff on their financial status and other questions around the issue of money. The findings do not make for happy reading.
For example, 77% of respondents said they felt financially unprepared for a crisis, such as a period of ill health, a relationship breakdown or a bereavement. Meanwhile, 41% reported that they had £500 or less within their household to fall back on and 9% even said they had resorted to using a food bank. So far so bad.
But I’ve left the worst till last. The survey found that 55% of respondents had considered leaving the profession due to money problems. I doubt we would have had similar findings if we had surveyed members of the medical profession. This is a deeply worrying situation, given how desperately short of nurses we are, and the importance of retaining the ones we have.
“It is how we respond that counts most”
Of course, multi-year pay rises have just been agreed for NHS staff in England and Scotland, and are in the process of being consulted on in Wales. However, let’s not kid ourselves, the size of the increases means the deals are not going to change anyone’s lifestyle too dramatically – indeed they won’t even make up for the real-terms pay cuts caused by years of pay freezes and below-inflation rises.
There will inevitably be staff who find themselves in difficulty, however, it is how we respond that counts most. Abandoning them to struggle by themselves and potentially leave nursing is short-sighted when there are alternatives – even if the option of restoring nurses’ pay to pre-austerity levels doesn’t seem likely any time soon.
Cavell Nurses’ Trust has created a membership programme for organisations that employ nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants to “create a safety net” to support nursing professionals “if they are facing a crisis” and “clearly demonstrates how much they value” them.
I would urge as many trusts and other employers as possible to take advantage of this clear opportunity to support their nursing staff in their hour of need and, in so doing, show how much they are valued.