Nurses working in the community are more likely to work additional time than nurses in hospital settings, according to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).
The RCN’s latest report on staffing levels within the profession found that 72% of nurses within the community, and 71% in care homes, worked additional time, compared to 63% of nurses working in hospitals.
The average length of overtime for nurses across all settings was 53 minutes, with 25% claiming they worked more than an hour in their most recent shift.
When scaling their findings on overtime up across the whole of the UK, the RCN estimated that this amounts to £396m of unpaid work in the NHS per year, using the salary of a band 5 nurse.
As well as being more likely to work additional time, community nurses are also less likely to take sufficient breaks during their working day, with 69% claiming they did not take enough breaks during their most recent shift, compared to 56% of those working in hospitals.
Other key findings from the report include:
- 68% of community nursing shifts had a shortfall in staff – one of the highest shortfalls across all settings. But community teams were less likely to fill this gap with temporary staff than those in hospitals.
- 62% of community nurses say they spend too much time on ‘non-nursing duties’, again one of the highest across all settings.
- Those working in the community rated the quality of their care more highly than those working across hospital settings.
- GP practices were among the best when judging whether the care they offered was compromised due to staff levels. While 67% of nurses in A&E/urgent care believed the care they offered was compromised, only 31% of those in GP practices felt the same.
Commenting on the report, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, Janet Davies, said: ‘The nursing shortage is biting hard and needs the attention of Ministers – this warning comes from the very people they cannot afford to lose.
‘The findings in this report are a direct result of years of poor planning and costcutting – it was entirely predictable.
‘Nursing staff are revealing desperately sad experiences and their honesty must drive forward the policy debate. We urgently need assurances from every health and care provider that services are safe for patients, and new laws on staffing should follow swiftly.’
To compile the data, the RCN surveyed more than 30,000 nurses across all settings, with 5,004 of them working in the community. This included GP practices, community nursing care, and public health services.