While the NHS and wider public sector is being viewed as currently having better job security than the independent sector, the evidence from the college suggests nurses are feeling the impact of the recession on their everyday lives.
According to the RCN’s welfare unit, 348 people called for advice in January 2009, an increase of 125% on the same period in 2008, when 154 calls were taken
Additionally, there were 89 appointments made to meet a financial advisor, compared with 57 in January 2008. The RCN also sent out 112 applications for hardship grants from the college benevolent fund in January 2009, compared with 69 in January 2008.
Money in the separate Mayday for Nurses benevolent fund – started in March 2007 by economist and author Noreena Hertz – has also now been used up by the college.
Proceeds from the controversial campaign, which called on premiership footballers to give up a day’s wages to nurses, were given to the RCN for distribution to members of the profession facing particular financial hardship.
The RCN said that by last August it had distributed all of the£250,000 fund in 280 awards. In total,£212,000 of the fund went directly to individual nurses.
Claire Cannings, welfare advisor at the RCN, said its welfare department was taking on extra staff to deal with demand for its services. The unit wanted to make more appointments with cash-strapped nurses but had been unable to because of staff shortages.
‘We are going to take on a new advisor starting next week to help cover some of the ongoing volume issues that we have in welfare,’ she told Nursing Times.
‘Some people lost their job. Some hospitals have cut back on bank shifts and because of this they have lost a couple of hundred pounds a month – that could send your finances completely out of control.
She added: ‘The most common thing is debt as a result of a reduction in income. We are doing a lot more referrals to other organisations.’
Sarah Creagh, staff nurse at University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, said: ‘I know people whose partners have lost their jobs because in Bristol there is a huge financial sector. That puts all the wage earning pressure on the nurse.
‘That has a huge effect,’ she added. ‘People are trying to cut back on food at the canteen or doing extra work. But bills have gone up and people have got children to feed and mortgages to pay. People are running out of things to cut back on.’
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