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Experienced nurses quitting and 'taking knowledge with them'

Increasing numbers of experienced nurses are quitting because of a ‘perfect storm engulfing the NHS’

Increasing numbers of experienced nurses are quitting because of a ‘perfect storm engulfing the NHS’.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) revealed that the number of nurses with 10 or more years’ experience leaving the profession yearly has doubled since 2013 as their members mount 40 nationwide protests to the continuing government restraint on pay on 27 July.

READ MORE: 'Lethal cocktail' of policies leading to rise in nursing vacancies

An average of 600 RCN members with at least a decade of professional experience now leave each year – twice as many as in 2013/14. The full loss to the NHS and the profession will be higher and display the same trend, according to the RCN.

Data showed 591 RCN members with at least 10 years’ experience quit nursing in the last 12 months compared with 323 in the same period of 2013/14. The year before that (2012/13) saw only 36 senior RCN members quit.

RCN chief executive Janet Davies called on the government to lift the 1% cap on nurses’ yearly pay rises, which has held wages below inflation for seven years. She blamed the cap for staff shortages and increased pressure on workloads.

READ MORE: More sick days taken than ever as nurses 'feel the strain' of budget limitations

‘The best nurses shouldn't be forced to throw in the towel because of staff shortages, relentless pressure and poor pay. This perfect storm is engulfing nursing and the stakes could scarcely be higher,’ she said. ‘When these people leave nursing, they are taking years of knowledge and hands-on experience with them.

‘All four countries of the UK need a plan to retain the years of collective experience and stem these losses. They must commit to safe staffing levels in legislation, invest in health services and lift the pay cap that is cutting salaries in real-terms.’

Ms Davies stressed the importance of experienced nurses working alongside the newly-trained to pass on their knowledge to the next generation before leaving work.

On average, a nurse who has worked for 10 years will earn around £29,000 a year.

READ MORE: More nurses left the NHS than joined up in past year

A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘As the Secretary of State [Jeremy Hunt] has made clear, the support and welfare of NHS staff is a top priority as they do a fantastic job – the government is committed to ensuring they can continue to deliver world-class patient care.’

The Department said they have invested in the frontline, putting over 12,500 more nurses on wards since May 2010. They linked changes in the number of nurses throughout the year to the recruitment and training cycles.