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NHS staff survey shows nursing facing almost every type of abuse

7 Mar 2024

Urgent measures needed to tackle abuse, improve morale and retain staff.

Illustration of people A new survey of NHS staff in England reveals an unhappy, overstretched workforce facing shocking levels of abuse from the public.    

The RCN says the latest NHS England staff survey findings provide an urgent reality check for government ministers and lay bare the impact of workforce shortages. 

The survey, now in its 20th year, shows 1 in 10 nurses and midwives reporting experiences of unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature at work in the last year. Nearly two-thirds have faced discrimination on the grounds of their ethnic background whilst one-third have been harassed or bullied by the public in the last 12 months.  

Nursing and midwifery staff also remain unhappy about NHS pay, with just 1 in 4 satisfied in their job. The impact of the failure to invest in staff is revealed with less than half reporting time to do their job properly and fewer than 1 in 3 saying there are enough staff.  

RCN Director for England Patricia Marquis said:  

“Nursing staff go into work to care for others, and it is a disgrace that racist, sexual and other discriminatory abuse is becoming the norm for so many. But this is potentially just the tip of the iceberg, with no data presented on the levels of physical violence faced by staff. We know NHS workers are repeatedly being attacked at work and it is deeply concerning that the data is not available.  

“Nursing staff remain unhappy with their pay and say there isn’t enough time or staff to do their job properly. When this happens, patients suffer.” 

With one-third of nurses and midwives reporting regular levels of burnout, the RCN says the Chancellor’s decision to omit any workforce measures in the budget now looks like an even graver mistake.  

Patricia added: “World class services cannot be built on the backs of unhappy and poorly paid staff. Urgent measures to improve morale and retain staff are needed, which have to include an above inflation pay rise this year.”  

In total, 268 NHS organisations took part in the survey, including all 213 trusts in England. 

Page last updated - 07/03/2024