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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)

  • I understand nurses frustrations at long hours, low pay, understaffing and bad press but why in heavens name do nurses who think they are good leave. without them it becomes more of a challenge. I love what I do and hope everyday that I work makes a difference to the patients I care for. I don't come to work for the benefits to me I go to work happily every day to benefit others and try to make their day a better one. Our patients and relatives don't ask to be in hospital. One day that may be us in the bed. I would like to hope my nurses will do their best for me too. So try looking at the positives in our job, make someone smile or laugh, make them feel less scared and alone, often it only takes a kind word or the gentle touch of a hand . Stand tall, be proud I am a nurse and I'm proud to say so

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  • the only way to improve things is to vote out these idiots next year...the tories and the lib dem cronies since being in power have torn the nhs apart

    vote them out if you want to save the nhs..another 5 years of this lot..the nhs is finished

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  • Anonymous | 11-May-2014 9:22 am

    what do you believe anybody else will do any differently?

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  • A recent patient’s survey raised my concerns. Patients mentioned the lack of continuity in nursing care. They suggested longer shifts for nurses in order to guarantee this continuity.
    The majority of us already work 12.5 hrs. per shift per day and I don’t think a longer shift is the solution, although I understand this concern.
    My point is as the majority of people out there don’t see a nurse as a person or human being, the obvious consequence is that we never should feel the tiredness or pressure of a daily workload, we should always be smiling and be there all the time as nurses do not need to eat and don’t use the toilet. So, if a patient don’t see us as human being, my worry is, does the Government see us in the same way? Just a number to fill the gaps of endless surveys, stats and reports without going anywhere??? Very worrying……

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  • Oh believe me, we tried to do something!! CQC, NMC,Government involvement, Senior Board Involvement, Unions, Witness Testimonies, Outside Investigators=Cover Up!! -Total Management Failure!!
    Where next then? - Legal Teams - Newspapers is this what the NHS has come to?
    I ask you Anonymous 8th May 2014 - where do we go to next? We did try everything, the system is hopeless!!

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  • Not all our responsibility as clinicians. Advise all your patients to contact their MP's and get involved

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  • Pussy

    Look peeps it has always been the same and Tory or Red in government makes no difference. If you feel so hard done by then either go to another country or leave.
    One thing nurses do well is moan and complain,indeed it's part of the job. Ridiculous leading questions in fact I could hardly be bothered with them in their childishness!

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  • tinkerbell | 7-May-2014 10:57 am

    the result of British society and 'general management systems' trying to categorise everybody and attempt to squash each individual into a limited number of small pigeon holes whether they fit or not! It causes the survivors to squabble and the rest to be trampled and squashed to a slow and painful death.

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  • Number one problem? Paperwork... Russians say "more paper you use, cleaner bottom you will have'. Why not to introduce a simple LIFEBLOG type forms? Instead of 9 different admission packs within 50 miles radius, I would suggest a blank sheet of papers - DATE - activity. Lets have an agreement that doctors use red pen, consultants green, nurses blue, hcas - black. etc. Simple, efficient and very, very clear. And please don't tell me BS about red ink, etc. Scanner's had a problem with different colours 20 (!!) years ago.

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  • Pussy | 11-Dec-2014 8:40 am

    are you a troll? your avatar and comments rather suggest you are.

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