We are losing nurses, and the government needs to act now.
For too long this government has taken nurses for granted. Showing them little respect for the vital contribution they make to society, stretching resources to breaking point and cutting back pay in real terms every year for the best part of a decade – well it is all finally starting to have an impact.
Last week, the Nursing and Midwifery Council revealed that its register of UK nurses and midwives is haemorhaging registrants.
Between 2016 and 2017, 20% more people left the register than joined it – the first time in recent history that has happened. After years of steady growth, in March 2017 there were 690,773 nurses and midwives on the register – down from 692,556 in March 2016.
As previously reported by Nursing Times, both Brexit and language testing requirements may have played a part, with more EU nurses leaving and failing to join the register than in recent years.
However, 85% of the register is made up of UK-trained nurses, and it is that part which is seemingly causing most consternation.
The regulator surveyed those leaving, and got over 4,500 responses to shed some light on why UK nurses are opting out of the profession.
Guess what? It’s poor working conditions – failing to provide nurses and midwives with the resources to do their jobs well is leading many to reconsider their career options and leave.
While the survey found nurses only cited poor pay as the seventh most significant reason in a list of 14 for leaving the register, I suspect the 1% pay freeze has had a more wide-reaching impact than the NMC data indicates.
Pay, inadequate staffing levels and other poor working conditions all combine together to produce a cocktail of misery for nurses, I suspect. Going home every day after doing a shift in which you think you’ve left care undone, and not looked after patients the way you would wish to and the way you were trained to do is one thing. But doing that and going home to a dwindling pay packet must make the way nurses feel even worse.
This government has long protested that it can not afford to pay nurses and public sector workers the amount recommended by the independent NHS Pay Review Body. False. It has decisions to make about how it spends its money, as I have said before. And frankly, it is about time Mr Hunt, Ms May and Mr Hammond recognised they can not afford not to pay health workers a decent rise and a fair wage.
This government is literally killing off the NHS with its austerity measures. It is time for a change in direction and to stop turning the NHS into a sick patient. Because if we go down this route for much longer, there will be no nurses left to nurse this particular unwell patient back to health.