The vast majority of the British public believe more nurses are needed in hospitals to ensure safe care, according to a new poll.
The poll, carried out by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the Royal College of Nursing, found 88% of people who took part felt more nurses are needed.
Meanwhile, just 19% of more than 1,000 adults surveyed said they felt nurses were paid a fair wage for the work they do.
The poll also revealed concern about media coverage of the profession, with less than one in three people – 27% – believing nursing was portrayed fairly.
RCN chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said the general election campaign had put a spotlight on the NHS and shown it was central to people’s lives.
“Voters are astute in their understanding of how health services work and how much they rely on the right number of staff to operate safely,” he said.
“Nurse staffing has been cut back to the bare bones, and people are looking to whoever forms the next government to ensure that it can’t happen again,” said Mr Carter, who is set to step down later this year.
“Nurse staffing has been cut back to the bare bones”
He added that nurses “should take heart from the clear public support for the work they do”.
But he said: “This is not enough on its own to sustain morale through hard times, in the face of negative media portrayals which the public see as unfair.”
In the run-up to the election on 7 May, he said all political parties would “do well to remember the value of nursing and the public’s desire to see the profession recognises and rewarded”.
The RCN is urging all nurses to vote in the election and has produced its own manifesto as part of its Nursing Counts election campaign, setting out what it wants from politicians.