More than half of nurses working in the NHS in England have warned staff shortages have left patient care ‘compromised and unsafe’ within the last year, a snapshot survey by the union Unite has revealed.
Meanwhile, 55% of nurses surveyed said they had thought about leaving the NHS in the last 12 months because of pay and workload.
The findings come as part of a survey carried out by Unite in May, which received more than 3,000 responses from staff working for the NHS in England, including 342 nurses.
Analysis of the responses provided by nurses raised serious concerns about staff shortages and retention.
Concerningly, over half of nurse respondents (59%) said that poor staffing levels had reached a point where they regularly felt patient care had been ‘compromised and unsafe’. Almost a third (28%) said this happened occasionally.
Of the more than 300 NHS nurses surveyed, 78% said they had frequently experienced staff shortages over the last 12 months.
A further 78% also said they had raised concerns about safe staffing levels in their working area or department within the last year.
In addition, more than two-thirds (68%) of nurses surveyed said they regularly felt stressed at work and 79% said they same about feeling tired.
One nurse who worked in a community mental health team told the survey that ‘it appears impossible to retain staff’. They said this was because of ‘the combined forces of low pay and ridiculous pressure’.
‘We have half the admin staff we should, less than half the nurses, and we’re down to one full-time doctor,’ they added.
‘The waiting times for appointments cause so much stress for patients and their families, which ends up directed at our lowest paid frontline staff and is then cascaded throughout the system, making working here feel untenable and putting further pressure on the staff who remain.’
Another nurse described being ‘unable to carry out basic nursing duties at times’. They added that they were also ‘unable to provide patient care needed’ and warned that staff were ‘being injured as a result of low staffing levels’.
One nurse informing the survey said staff turnover was ‘the worst’ it had been for years, while another warned: ‘We cannot carry on like this.’
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: ‘The survey’s findings are stark. Everyday across England patients are being put in danger due to staff shortages.’
Meanwhile, Unite national lead officer Onay Kasab said: ‘NHS staff are dedicated to the health service but the chronic lack of staff, combined with low pay is making them ill and resulting in skilled, dedicated workers leaving in droves.’
Unite remains in dispute with the government over NHS pay and is re-balloting members on whether they wish to take strike action over pay and staffing issues.