Some nurses are ‘living from hand to mouth’ and have been forced to leave their jobs for better paid roles because of the cost-of-living crisis, a nursing conference has been told.
Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) have used their annual congress this week to place a stark lens on the concerning impacts of rising living costs on the workforce.
The conference, which was held in Brighton this week, heard accounts from nursing staff who said colleagues were relying on food banks or meal donations from work to make ends meet.
Nurse and RCN member Victoria Udeh said: ‘many nurses are struggling to get by’ and were facing ‘debt problems’. Some were ‘living from hand to mouth’, she added.
‘This has forced many nurses to leave their job and go into better paid jobs, while many work several extra shifts to get extra income,’ Ms Udeh told the conference.
‘Directly or indirectly this brings about poor family work-balance, it affects our mental health, physical and emotional wellbeing – not forgetting the poor performance at work and how this affects the patients we care for.
‘Something has to be done before it gets out of hand.’
Kelvin Ossai, a nurse in the East Midlands, echoed a similar sentiment when he took to the conference stage and asked nursing staff: ‘Without that extra shift, will you be able to survive as a registered nurse?’
His question was largely met by nurses in the audience shouting ‘no’.
More time taking on extra shifts meant more time away from family and children, warned Mr Ossai.
‘We don’t give our family the desired parental time or family time that they need,’ he said.
‘We are coming to care for people, but at the same time, our health and our wellbeing matters.’
Meanwhile, RCN member Lyndsey Curtis-Dawson said there were some hospitals opening ‘staff shops’ which offered an array of donated food items to colleagues.
‘In my trust where I work, the refrigerator is filled for staff anonymously to take meals so that they don’t face the embarrassment of either not eating at all on a 12-hour shift or having to go and ask somebody for some food,’ she explained. ‘Let that sink in.’
Fellow RCN member Zoe Lane raised concerns about expensive car parks and public transport that nurses had to use to go to work.
As a safeguarding lead, she said she had to think carefully about the additional transport costs incurred if she held a training day for colleagues.
Meanwhile, RCN member Patience Bamisaye said cost of living pressures were ‘much worse’ for nurses from overseas because of restrictions on their visas.
She claimed that while many nurses were concerned about rising costs of mortgages and borrowing, nurses from overseas were ‘not allowed to borrow money’ because of such restrictions.
The rising cost of living has ‘inappropriately affected’ people from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds, she added.