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Sharp increase in nursing staff thinking of leaving profession, reveals RCN research

Press Release 16/07/2020

  • New survey of RCN members working during the pandemic shows an increase in the proportion considering leaving the profession
  • 61% cite pay as a reason for considering leaving NHS and independent sector roles
  • “Tensions have been exacerbated by the pandemic,” says Dame Donna Kinnair, RCN Chief Executive and General Secretary

New research by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) today reveals a sharp rise in the proportion of nursing staff considering quitting the profession, driven primarily by concerns about pay.

Of the 42,000 members who responded to the survey, across the UK and the Channel Islands, nearly three quarters (73%) said higher pay would make them feel more valued.

The results show that across the NHS and independent sectors, the percentage thinking of leaving the profession has increased to 36%, or more than a third, from 27% at the end of last year. Of those thinking of leaving, 61% cited pay as a factor. Other factors cited include the way nursing staff have been treated during the Covid-19 pandemic (44%), low staffing levels (43%), and lack of management support (42%).

The report warns that the increase in those considering leaving is a serious cause for alarm. Entering the pandemic, there were already approximately 40,000 nursing vacancies in the NHS in England alone.

The RCN, along with other health unions, has this month called for pay negotiations for the NHS to be brought forward so that pay deals due to expire in 2021 can be replaced with a pay rise sooner.

The new findings also show that while 74% of respondents felt more valued by the general public, just 18% said they felt more valued by the Government. The figure for the proportion feeling more valued by the media was 58%, and in relation to patients and service users it was 54%.

Dame Donna Kinnair, RCN Chief Executive and General Secretary, said:

“The responses from our members working in all sectors reveal how their professional lives have been changed by the pandemic. Existing tensions have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Earlier sticking plasters are no longer covering gaping holes.

“The Government must take steps to retain the nursing staff we have, as well as to increase entry into the profession. Investment in staffing and pay is about both patient safety and the health of our workers. That is how to strengthen all NHS and care services to help keep patients safe.”


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