After years of increasing numbers, more nurses and midwives are now leaving the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register than are joining it, new Royal College of Nursing (RCN) report says. The reduction in staffing numbers has meant that nurses are increasingly staying for longer, unpaid hours and are witnessing a decline in the standard of care.
According to the report, which was based on a survey of over 30,000 nursing and midwifery staff in the UK, more than half (53%) said that care was being compromised on their last shift and over a third (36%) said that they had to leave certain vital care duties undone because of a lack of time.
Janet Davies, RCN Chief Executive, said: ‘When this many professional blow the whistle, they cannot be overlooked’.
‘The nursing shortage is biting hard and needs the attention of ministers. This warning comes from the very people they cannot afford to lose’.
In short, the report argues that inadequate staffing numbers and levels of funding are stretching nurses and midwives to the absolute limit, resulting in more leaving the profession than joining because of the pressures they face and the lack of remuneration for such work.
The report claims that a ‘conservative estimate’ of the value of unpaid work conducted by nurses in the NHS is around £396 million per year. One reason for this astoundingly high number is that ‘93% of nursing staff who worked extra unplanned time for NHS providers were not paid for this’ (for non-NHS providers this figure falls to 76%).
One respondent of the survey said: ‘I drove home from work sobbing today, knowing the patients I cared for didn’t get a fraction of the care I would consider “acceptable”’.
Other notable findings from the report include:
- A lack of patient dignity, with some even dying alone
- Increasingly numbers of nurses are feeling the strain, with their own health suffering as a result
- More and more nursing staff are questioning their futures within the profession
- And, a lack of support for their families as shifts of up to or over 12 hours can leave them exhausted and unable to enjoy home life
Another respondent compared her experience to ‘working on a battlefield; we don’t know who to go to first’.
As winter approaches and fears grow over a difficult flu season for the NHS, the staffing shortages and trends towards staff leaving the profession are only set to make things worse.