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Pay a ‘strong driver’ for nurses wanting to quit

Pay a ‘strong driver’ for nurses wanting to quit

Just two in 10 nursing staff believe their pay level or band is appropriate, according to a survey which raised specific concerns around the ‘vast’ variation in general practice nurse (GPN) pay.

Results of the Royal College of Nursing’s (RCN) latest employment survey have raised fresh concerns over the level of nurses considering leaving their jobs and the profession altogether, as well as around staff wellbeing and pay.

The poll of more than 11,000 nursing staff across the UK, including 834 GPNs, saw almost half of respondents (45%) report that they were actively planning or thinking of leaving their jobs, with a further 12% due to retire.

And 41% of respondents who said they were considering or planning to leave their current role intend to leave nursing altogether.

The RCN said its survey, carried out in autumn 2023, suggested pay was a ‘strong driver’ for nursing staff wanting to leave their jobs.

Two-thirds (66%) of nursing staff said they thought their pay band or level was inappropriate and just over half of those (52%) were considering or planning to leave.

Just 22% said they felt their pay level was appropriate in 2023 – a fall of 22 percentage points from 2015 when four in 10 (44%) said the same.

And the RCN said 31% of those who felt their pay was appropriate were considering or planning to leave.

Feeling undervalued, under too much pressure or feeling exhausted were also cited as strong reasons for those wanting to or considering leaving their jobs.

GPN pay variation ‘is so vast’

Results also showed the impact of pay concerns, with almost seven in 10 (69%) respondents stating that money worries were causing anxiety and depression.

Financial worries were also affecting nurses’ ability to sleep, with a quarter (25%) of respondents reporting that they were regularly losing sleep.

More than a third (36.5%) said they were finding it difficult to concentrate either regularly or sometimes at work, due to financial concerns, and 33% said they found themselves having to deal with money issues while at work.

Concerningly, almost a fifth of respondents 18% of all respondents said that they regularly skip meals amid cost of living pressures.

The RCN’s survey report, published this week, flagged ‘specific comments’ about pay, terms and conditions for nursing staff working in general practice, including concerns over the omission of a promised 6% pay rise last year.

One GPN in England said: ‘Pay is more than just salary. Nurses in general practice feel undervalued and lack benefits such as sick pay, maternity pay and structured pay scales.’

Another said: ‘In general practice, the variation in pay and holiday allowance is so vast even from surgery to surgery in the same town.

‘I am upset that practice nursing staff did not get a pay rise or any back pay. It seems we are forgotten and less valued in general practice.’

Previous research from the RCN suggested almost half of GPNs in England received no pay rise at all in 2023, while around three-quarters did not receive the full 6% promised by the government.

GPNs responding to the RCN’s survey also cited ‘stress levels’ and high expectations from management.

‘Nursing has changed so much in my career. I would not be considering leaving at age 60 if the job was still the same as it used to be,’ said a GPN in England.

Workplace pressures ‘too much to stand’

Across all health and social care settings, nursing staff warned workplace pressure ‘has become too much to stand’, said the RCN.

Between 2013 and 2023, the number of nursing staff reporting being under too much pressure at work increased from 59.3% to 71.1%.

The same period saw the number of nursing staff saying they are too busy to provide the level of care they would like to increase from 56% to 65.9%.

In addition, more than eight in 10 (85%) said they had worked whilst sick during 2023 and less than a third (29%) reported being happy with their work-life balance – the lowest score recorded since 2013.

A health visitor working in general practice in Scotland said: ‘I enjoy aspects of my job as a health visitor, but I regularly work after my finishing time to ensure my work is up to date, however, this has an implication on my work-life balance and my family.

‘I am considering leaving nursing all together to find a job I can leave on time and not have to worry about work.’

Meanwhile, a retired GPN in England explained: ‘I was told if I wanted to reduce my hours I would need to reapply for my job and my role would be advertised as a full-time post.

‘If someone also applied wanting part-time work I might be considered for the post. I took my retirement instead and returned in a different role part-time.’

They added: ‘‘The NHS lost a specialist nurse with 16 years’ experience. Staff are expected to fit into shift patterns that do not always suit.’

While two-thirds (64%) of all respondents considered nursing a rewarding career, only two in five (40%) said they would recommend it as a career, with over a fifth (21%) reporting that they regretted their job choice.

‘It is a terrible state of affairs’

Professor Pat Cullen, RCN general secretary and chief executive, 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. It is a terrible state of affairs.’

She added: ‘The picture for nursing may look bleak, but as a general election approaches, politicians have a chance to chart a better course.’

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