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‘Nearly 30% of nurses and midwives more likely to quit than a year ago’

Thousands of nurses and midwives say they are more likely to quit their job than a year ago because of frustrations over pay and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on mental health, a survey has found.

The Institute for Public Policy Research think tank poll of 1,006 health professionals across the UK has prompted warnings of a ‘deadly exodus’ of healthcare workers over the next few years.

It found one in four NHS workers, and 29% of nurses and midwives, are more likely to quit the NHS than they were before the pandemic. This equates to as many as 333,000 staff including 100,000 nurses and 8,000 midwives.

The Government must introduce a 5% average pay rise, better benefits, more flexible working, better career progression for NHS staff and tougher action to end discrimination, the IPPR recommended.

IPPR senior research fellow Chris Thomas warned: ‘Bad policy during the pandemic and during the austerity decade created our workforce crisis. Good policy can get us out of the crisis now. If that’s not forthcoming, the government risks a deadly exodus of healthcare workers in the years to come.’

Asked by the IPPR what their policy priorities should be, 70% of staff said a pay rise. Responses also included better employee benefits (33%), flexible working hours (29%), fewer administrative tasks (22%), better career progression (19%), and better mental health support (18%).

In addition, nearly nine in 10 said slow government action – such as being late to introduce lockdown measures – was an important contributor to the UK experiencing the highest Covid-19 death toll in Europe. Almost 80% cited ‘an under-resourced NHS with little spare capacity’.

The IPPR also found that two-third of NHS staff felt mentally exhausted on at least a weekly basis, with 24% using alcohol or drugs to deal with stress weekly and 5% thinking of self-harm or suicide once a week or more, as explored in Nursing in Practice‘s in-depth piece on the toll of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, 31% of workers from minority ethnic backgrounds reported experiencing discrimination or unfair treatment from managers or colleagues – compared to just 16% of white staff.

RCN chief executive Dame Donna Kinnair said the report ‘should act as a wake-up call to government and force them to stop ignoring the warning signs of an exodus of nursing staff from the NHS’.

She continued: ‘Ministers must now rethink their pay offer and put in proper support service for those who given so much in the last year.

‘Proper mental and psychological support services need to be made available to all nursing staff. Government must also step up to provide the funds for supported time out, not limited to annual leave, for all staff, to give them the time and space to recover.’

Last week, the UK Government came under more pressure to give NHS staff a substantial pay boost after Scotland revealed it has offered its NHS staff a pay rise of at least 4%.

Westminster has proposed a 1% increase for NHS staff in England earlier this month. The NHS Pay Review Body is still to make its own recommendations before ministers take their final decision on Agenda for Change wage rises.