Britain’s top nurse Janet Davies speaks out as it emerges the health service faces an “unprecedented” crisis
Large numbers of NHS nurses are quitting because of staff shortages and poor pay, it is claimed today.
Britain’s top nurse Janet Davies spoke out as it emerged the health service faced an “unprecedented” crisis with the number of unfilled posts doubling in three years to 40,000.
It comes as new polling suggests major public concern for hospital safety with seven in 10 people believing nurses are underpaid and similar numbers saying there are not enough of them.
Ms Davies, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing , said: “There is a perfect storm engulfing nursing and the stakes could scarcely be higher.
“After years of warnings, the nursing profession is officially shrinking. The best nurses feel forced to throw in the towel because of unprecedented staff shortages, relentless pressure and poor pay.
“The NHS is being dragged down by the worst nursing shortage in its history. Ministers cannot be caught idle.”
She added: “Experienced nursing staff are leaving in droves, not because they don’t like the job, but because they can’t afford to stay.”
Today the RCN will stage a protest outside Parliament against the below-inflation 1% public sector pay cap. It has caused nursing pay to fall by 14% – about £3,000 –in real terms since 2010. About 2,000 health workers will take a day of leave to participate.
It has also emerged they have support from the public. A YouGov poll of 1,624 people found 72% believe there are too few nurses to provide safe care.
Some 68% said nurses were underpaid – including 58% who vote Tory. And 57% said they would be willing to pay more tax to make the NHS safer, including a majority of Tories.
Pressure is mounting on Theresa May and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt after reports suggested the PM planned to lift the pay cap for nurses, teachers and other public sector staff later this year.
Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth said: “The Tory Government has taken NHS staff for granted for years and the result is staffing shortages across the health service and even longer waits for patients.”
A&E waiting time targets have been consistently missed under the Tories.
In January we told how a one-year-old boy with suspected meningitis spent five hours on a makeshift bed of two chairs.
The NHS does not publish national data on nurse vacancies. But the RCN found 40,000 vacant posts earlier this year after freedom of information requests to trusts. That figure stood at 20,000 in 2013.
As of March 2017, the NHS employed 285,893 nurses and health visitors. Last year it spent £60million on agency staff. Fully qualified nurses start on a salary of about £22,000.
Now the RCN is warning industrial action could be an option if the pay cap is not lifted. Ms Davies said: “If the Government fails to announce a change of direction in the Budget, industrial action by nursing staff immediately goes on the table.” The warning comes after junior doctors went on strike last year in a contract dispute.
A Department of Health spokesman said: “We are helping the NHS to make sure it has the right staff, in the right place, at the right time to provide safe care — that’s why there are over 31,100 more professionally qualified clinical staff, including over 11,600 more doctors, and almost 12,000 more nurses on our wards since May 2010.”
The spokesman added: “Support and welfare of NHS staff is a top priority, and the government is committed to ensuring they can continue to deliver world-class patient care.”
This article was taken from: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/worst-nurse-shortage-ever-nhs-11118667