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Pressures facing nursing staff highlighted by RCN survey


Nursing staff are working in “intolerable situations” and feel unsupported and undervalued, with many thinking about leaving the profession, according to a Royal College of Nursing survey.

It found 56% of respondents thought too much time was spent on non-nursing duties, with 59% saying they were too busy to provide the level of care that they would like.

“Nursing staff are being placed in intolerable situations. Many nurses skip every break”

Josie Irwin

In addition, 43% reported an increase in the number of patients they were being asked to care for, while 42% reported recruitment freezes.

Meanwhile, 82% had worked when not feeling well enough to do so, of which 46% said the main reason was stress.

Almost third of all respondents were seeking a new job, with almost a quarter looking to leave healthcare completely.

Over half had worked extra hours to pay the bills and other living expenses and 32% had worked night or weekend shifts to help do so.

The results chime with similar findings published last week by another union and echo a major survey by Nursing Times in 2014, which was widely reported on by the national media.

A report published last Wednesday and based on a survey of 10,500 Unison members working in the NHS found around two thirds were seriously considering leaving their jobs.

Staffing shortages, low pay and changes in the NHS were cited as the key reasons for wanting to move on.

Josie Irwin

Josie Irwin

Josie Irwin, RCN head of employment relations, said: “Nursing staff are being placed in intolerable situations. Many nurses skip every break, work late after every shift, do their paperwork in their own time, and the pressure just increases.

“Employers, the NHS and the government need to work together to ensure that there are enough nurses, with the right level of skills,” she added.

The figures were based on the results of an online survey sent to a random sample of RCN members, receiving 4,137 responses.

“We need the Home Office to add nurses onto the shortage occupation list so we are able to find high-calibre nurses from overseas”

Danny Mortimer

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: “These surveys reflect the difficult times some NHS Trusts and their staff are facing. 

“The commitment to deliver the same standard of care to patients amid rising demand has an understandable impact on the wellbeing of staff,” he said. “Trusts are telling us that we currently do not have enough nurses to meet demand.”

Mr Mortimer repeated his call for nursing to be added to the list of occupations that are deemed to be in short supply and, therefore, outside of government migration quotas.

“We need, for the next two years, to be able to recruit nurses from overseas while we train new nurses from the UK,” he said.

“We need the Home Office to add nurses onto the shortage occupation list so that, where we are able to find high-calibre nurses from overseas, we can secure their employment for the benefit of patients – and our own NHS workforce,” he added.


What nursing staff told the RCN

One nurse said: “I have to work late most shifts to ensure workload is complete. Too much paperwork and not enough patient care.”

Another said: “The ward is intense and busy. We are running ourselves into the ground, not taking breaks and leaving an hour after shifts end to get all our work done. We should get paid a lot more for this amount of pressure.”

A healthcare assistant working in the independent sector said: “It is very hard work, the majority of people will need basic care at some point of their lives – it is very underappreciated.”





Readers' comments (16)

  • michael stone

    So hardly any nurses, and hardly any GPs then: this isn't encouraging, as a potential user of the NHS.

    Should I be 'cheered up' by those Goverment announcements, to the effect that 'it is all in hand' ?

    PS You can replace 'hardly any' with 'too few' or 'not enough' if you prefer.

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  • I don't think the government truly understand the potential nursing crisis that is looming. Experienced and highly skilled nurses are now leaving in their droves with many others looking at taking early retirement. This of course impacts on the nurses that don't have the option of leaving as their work-load increases to pick up the slack.I am so tired of being treated shabbily by the government; when will it end???

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  • Most of my fellow healthcare assistants work extra 'bank' shifts to make ends meet as there is no overtime pay available. The staff are exhausted before the start of a shift mainly because of staff shortages due to lack of funding by the government . No way will the NHS exist as a public service in the future. I'm glad that I am nearing retirement. I don't blame anyone who is looking for a different job

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  • Even our matron and manager are in denial 'we're alright aren't we ? We're coping, is all we get told by them ,put a smile on your face and get on with it ,easy to say from the comfort of your office when it's not your PIN on the line. The reality is we are drowning but no one seems interested, foreign nurses employed who are not up to standard but make up numbers, english is so bad they are a liability ,patients can't understand them so they keep quiet and dont ask for help

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  • what will the rcn do about it? nothing

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  • Well RCN

    You have the results of your survey

    Please respond and tell all the NURSES and Carers what you are going to do about the results.

    It will not be sufficient to lobby the government, because you will not be heard! as usual.

    You will have to come up with some new ideas on how you are going to support the Nurses and Carers and bring about change.

    You have to gain the trust and respect of all Nurses and do something positive

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  • I have recently been told by a colleague that a senior manager's stance is if our work load cuts into our lunch break or goes beyond our finishing time that we are not managing our time effectively!! Expecting to fit more work into an already full day is just unrealistic but then to blame the staff for poor time management when the work then encroaches into their time is insensitive & demoralizing. Just how you want staff who already feel undervalued & 'a statistic in the workforce' to feel. I think not.

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  • Having been in nursing for 35 years this appears to be an ongoing theme. Managers dont appear to recognise the amount of unpaid work that the nurses have always provided. A manager that accuses a nurse of not managing their time effectively is, perhaps, not a nurse, as no nurse would be so harsh and judgemental, as they realise the unpredictability of caring for patients and the demands upon the nurses time. A personal observation is that the banding has now created the situation that hospital staff are paid the same as nurses, however, they can have their breaks, leave on time - their jobs are not on the line every hour of every day. We are subjected to unfair complaints from every angle, harshly judged and feel undervalued. We continually have to prove our worth The question has always remained - what can we do about it ? Nurses are voting with their feet, leaving the profession, how do we stop this ?

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  • Nursing is physically demanding, mentally exhausting, and emotionally draining. Shifts when you seem to lurch from one crisis to another as patients are getting sicker. Not enough time to give the care you want to give/patients need & expect as your priority has to be the life threatening emergencies. Supporting international staff whose English is poor, their knowledge and skills are below what should be expected. Skipping breaks as you don't feel able to leave the ward, forever leaving late as you haven't completed any documentation. This is the reality of nursing. Not sure how much longer I can do this job.

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  • michael stone

    It is this series of NT comments, that people should be reading - not 'reports from academics'. The truth is usually apparent, when you read 'what the front line is saying'.

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