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Morale among nursing staff has collapsed, study finds

16 May 2024 3 minute read
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Morale among nursing staff has “collapsed” amid a crisis caused by staff shortages and low pay, according to a study.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said a survey of more than 11,000 nursing staff across the UK found that more than seven in 10 described the pressure they face as “too much to stand”, while a similar number said their pay failed to match their level of responsibility.

Almost half of respondents said they are planning or considering quitting.

The RCN said the findings showed that pressures on staff have increased “significantly” over the last decade and should “concentrate the minds” of politicians as a general election approaches.

Burnt out

A district nurse in Wales who responded to the survey said: “I have been qualified for eight months and I’m already feeling burnt out and dread going to work because of the workload and have been starting to think about leaving.”

One nurse working in the NHS in the north west of England said: “I’ve been a nurse for 16 years. I can’t remember a worse time in the NHS.

“Poor staffing, stress, burnout, and morale are apparent on a daily basis – camaraderie gets us through most days. I hope for a future where my children and the next generations have a safe NHS.”

A health visitor working in general practice in Scotland said: “I am considering leaving nursing all together to find a job I can leave on time and not have to worry about work.”

The RCN said that more than a decade of pay restraint has driven an “explosion” in pay-related mental ill health amongst nursing staff.

A community nurse in Northern Ireland said: “Responsibility of the job is not reflected in the pay. Experienced nurses are leaving the profession for jobs as sales assistants, where they are better paid.”


Pat Cullen, RCN general secretary, said: “Over the last 10 years, nursing staff have become increasingly demoralised by the level of care they are able to provide. The stress and anxiety from trying to meet the needs of patients is forcing them to work whilst sick and now many want to quit entirely.

“This last decade has seen nursing staff grapple with devastating workforce shortages as successive governments fail to invest in the profession.

“In every setting from the NHS to social care, patients are suffering. Huge losses in staff pay only add to a feeling of disrespect for dedicated professionals who are sacrificing their own welfare to care for patients.

“The picture for nursing may look bleak, but as a general election approaches, politicians have a chance to chart a better course.

“Our profession is fundamental to building a healthy society and economy, but it cannot do that with its hands tied behind its back.”

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