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Exclusive survey: Nurses underpaid, overworked and undervalued


The majority of nurses feel underpaid, overworked and undervalued, according to a survey carried out jointly by Nursing Times and ITV.

More than eight of 10 nurses said they did not have enough time to give patients adequate care and a quarter believed they had put a patient’s life at risk because they were too busy or overworked.

Staff shortages and too much paperwork were the most common factors stopping nurses from doing their job properly, they said.

The survey results were due to be featured this week in ITV’s new breakfast programme Good Morning Britain, as part of a special edition on nursing.

The findings are a stark reminder of the everyday pressures faced by frontline nursing staff, and their view that staffing remains the key factor in ensuring patient safety.

“Despite all the pressures, the public should understand that as nurses we do try our best”

Survey respondent

Despite an increasing recognition by many hospital trusts that they need to recruit more nurses, the findings suggest there is still a long way to go.  

This was further confirmed last week when persistent staff shortages were cited as a major factor for Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals Foundation Trust being placed in “special measures” by healthcare regulators.

Our survey suggested the vast majority of nurses still believe mandatory minimum nurse-to-patient ratios are the best way of ensuring safe staffing, despite their unpopularity with minsters and many senior nurses. Overall, 88% of respondents said they thought the government should introduce ratios.

The survey also provided frontline insight into patient safety during out-of-hours periods, such as nights and weekends, where lack of lack of experienced staff has been a long-standing issue for the health service. Last month, the president of the Royal College of Physicians warned in the Daily Telegraph that lives were being put at risk because of a failure to tackle the issue.


Around two-thirds of respondents, 66%, said they worried about the level of care that their ward, hospital or clinic could give to patients outside normal working hours. A similar percentage said their ward, hospital or clinic could not function at night, weekends or Bank Holidays without using agency staff.

A massive 96% of respondents said there is too much bureaucracy in the NHS, in spite of ongoing efforts to reduce it, for example by improving technology, and it being a government priority that is often name-checked in ministerial speeches.

“My job is great and I live it, when I am given the opportunity to go it well”

Survey respondent

In addition, 76% of survey respondents said they did not feel valued by their manager and 86% said they did not get paid enough money for the job they do.

The strong views on pay comes after widespread anger from the profession over the government’s rejection of the NHS Pay Review’s recommendation of a blanket 1% pay rise for all staff in England.  

A possible concern is that a significant chunk of respondents lacked confidence in their own work environment. Asked whether they would you be happy to be a patient in the ward, hospital or clinic where they worked, 57% “yes” and 43% said “no”.

This represents a slightly more negative view than that of respondents to the NHS staff survey for 2013. It found 65% of all staff would be happy to recommend the care on offer at their NHS trust –up 2% on the previous year.

Meanwhile, when asked whether they would encourage their child to go into nursing, based on their experience, 73% of participants said “no”, while 27% answered “yes”.

Although, the survey results highlighted the struggles faced by nurses, respondents remained positive about their motivation.

“My job is great and I live it, when I am given the opportunity to go it well,” said one, while another stated: “Although my responses are negative, I love my job.”

A further respondent said: “Despite all the pressures, the public should understand that as nurses we do try our best.”

Nursing Times surveyed 1,830 nurses between 22 April and 1 May. Most, 62%, worked for an acute service provider, and the majority, 41%, described themselves as staff nurses.    

Our latest findings echo similar surveys carried out earlier this year, which together build a picture of the views of nurses on working conditions and related issues.

A survey carried out by Nursing Times in February to mark a year since the Francis report into care failings at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust found more than half of respondents believed their ward or unit was dangerously understaffed.  

Another piece of research by Unison, involving nearly 3,000 nursing staff, was published in April at the union’s health conference. It found two-thirds of respondents said they did not have enough time with patients or enough staff to deliver safe, dignified, compassionate care.   


Nursing Times/ITV survey 7 May 2014

Nursing Times/ITV survey 7 May 2014


Readers' comments (30)

  • the tories plan for the NHS is on it down..then full blown privatisation

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  • tinkerbell

    nurses are also being dehumanised. Just 'human resources'.

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  • The questions are extremely loaded, and as a case in point does the response to the third question mean that there are over 400 nurses who effectively should be on the NMC's radar for putting a patient's life at risk.

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  • I am so sick and tired of reading yet another 'report'/'survey'/'research' that states the bloody obvious, and the reason nothing will EVER change is because all governments know that this is all that will this stuff -let it sit awhile, wait for the next 'report' nauseam, have a few knee-jerk comments (by jerks), and then carry on.............till the next one..

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  • Anonymous | 7-May-2014 1:53 pm

    The questions are extremely loaded, and as a case in point does the response to the third question mean that there are over 400 nurses who effectively should be on the NMC's radar for putting a patient's life at risk.

    I'm unclear why you are confident the questions are loaded.

    As for question 3, I think we can be sure there are far too many cases where nurses (and doctors) don't raise concerns when they should do - as another Nursing Times survey showed!

    Just because the truth is uncomfortable doesn't mean it should not be shared, surely?

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  • Could they not have published a "survey respondent" that was literate?

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  • For the last 20 years we have raised the same issues, with the same so called Managers, Chief Executives (we are on our 6th in the last 12 years) with different Governments and with different CQC audit boards.
    In the last 20 years, if not longer, NOTHING has changed. It would be simple to mend, but no one listens and NO ONE has the balls to do anything about it, because when you try, they set you up and you are harrassed, intimidated and bullied,and that is why nurses are haemorrhaging away from the Profession. Who can remember the nurse who committed suicide for being bullied by her Trust in London?
    How to solve it? Here are some clues!!

    Re-train your managers to be Business Managers - Professional ones - not the baboons we have in place now.

    Make Mandatory Training a stackable offence for all Sisters and specialists if they fail to let their staff attend. Make sure your staff understand what they are being taught via a feedback system.

    Make all Senior Nurses, Doctors, Consultants work the full 24/7 work rota,not just band 5 & 6's and below.

    Don't promote incompetence!! These people are the downfall of the NHS!

    Sack dangerous nurses. It's a breach of the NMC guidelines and a breach of the Law, so why are dangerous nurses still in their jobs?!

    If untrained staff are showing signs of dangerous practice or have no care or compassion, GET RID OF THEM!

    As far as I can see from my experience, it's because no one will take responsibility for this whole mess that we are in!
    Vote winner if you did it, but as I said I am not holding my breath!!

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  • The government does not care about nurses, they teat us like scum, our managers treat us like scum, while sitting on their hefty salaries for doing what ? We as nurses try our best for our patients but how long can we keep fighting against the tide, we are not even paid a decent wage anymore considering the responsibility we take on, with changes to our pensions , contacts and the chronic understaffing that puts patients at risk and us to breaking point, no wonder so many nurses are committing suicide. How far can they keep pushing us...I have lost hope

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  • The nurses looking out for everyone else....who is looking out for the nurses....not the government clearly. Inflation goes up 10% ....nurses pay to go up 1%...government says "no". I think we have to get all not essential services to strike if not all services industrial act is the only way

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  • Shocking conditions and extending to the community too. How can we hope to care properly for an increasing number of extremely complex client groups with long term conditions with fewer resources in real terms? The best and most experienced staff nurses are considering leaving and the best potential leaders are not putting themselves forward because they too are isolated and unsupported. To do so would effectively be signing your own death warrant. This is serious and I wouldn't mind betting on litigation claims if the damage the current climate is inflicting on its nurses persists. Shameful. The press needs to make the public truly aware of what nurses are up against. Managers need to fight our corner and protect their staff by saying to the Govt this is totally unacceptable. Who will stand up and demand action or shall those that lead us idly stand by and watch the attrition of our great National Institution? One of the 6 C's COURAGE....we, as nurses, need our nursing leaders to DEMAND a response. What a travesty the best candidates, the brilliant nurses of the future, wouldn't now consider nursing as a career.

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  • sorry, no time at the moment but to echo the above comment -the press and the media should get a grip and stick to reporting the facts to help improve the situation and make nursing care and invaluable and irreplaceable work of the NHS safe and the very best!

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  • tinkerbell

    Anonymous | 7-May-2014 7:29 pm

    Well said! If only.

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  • welcome to your tory NHS!!

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  • Agree with ALL the above.
    BTW any nurses over band 6 are discouraged by management from working full range of shifts due to money. I want to work the full range of shifts, but am discouraged; although many only want promotion so that they can get out of 24hr rotational shifts. Maybe wards who force nurses to work nights even though there are staff who prefer them, should have a re-think.

    Welcome to Cameron's Britain. The tory's have never thought of nurses as anything other than glorified hand maidens/waitresses/cleaners with extended training so that they can take obs or give injections. Also their tory friendly tabloids who demonise us all as uncaring and useless. Or their readership who are happy to contribute to the venom by recalling stories which are in fact not neglect but evidence of the NHS reaching breaking point.

    When will one of this current multi millionaire public schoolboy government have to wait on a trolley in a corridor having only a flimsy screen for privacy so that they can pee into a cardboard urinal??

    Come the revolution ........ one can only hope.

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  • I am just about to return to nursing after a break of 17years- I've just finished a return to practice course.
    When I left nursing in 1998 I wrote a huge letter to the UKCC telling them WHY I was leaving the profession.My letter detailed shortage of staff, lack of equipment, staff at breaking point, unsafe wards etc etc.Absolutely nothing seems to have changed at all!
    Why on earth have I signed up to come back? It was because of the Francis report-I was idiot enough to think I could make a difference with my traditional 'old hand' nursing values.
    But T-the conditions for nurses now seem to be worse-they are talking of stopping incremental pay rises and I don't think the Superannuation scheme is worth what it was either.I will be going back to the private sector because I think my (newly regained) PIN number might be at risk on the wards.Looking at the comments I think I could guarantee to face a public that expects miracles, nurses who have to look after 10 patients each, and a management system that seems to think that's totally acceptable!!

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  • The NHS can't fold, Florence would turn in her grave. Remember her quote "First, we shall do no harm"!!! Seems to me, quiet a few Senior Team Members forgot that one along the way!! Whilst hiding in their offices!!

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  • My daughter was considering becoming a nurse, I have begged her not too, I do not want her to have to go through the this type of disgusting treatment in her professional life. I have have been a nurse for twenty years and I have decided to leave the country for better workplace treatment and conditions good luck NHS I cannot do this anymore

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  • irresponsible to dissuade people who aspire to a career in nursing when there is already a global shortage which is predicted to rise. if you don't like UK there are unlimited opportunities around the world and br. trained nurses are welcomed with open arms.

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  • Instead of more surveys and similar research, why not just clunk the heads of unions and patients' interest groups to form an one or two issues party at the next local and national elections. Use the collective moaning power to raise support and votes.

    When elected, sort out these problems and wing it with the rest of the other issues, which is what current and past governments seems to have done. Might see better results than at present.

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