Less than a third of the public think that there are adequate numbers of nursing staff to provide safe care to patients, research by YouGov has found.
The survey of 1624 voters, carried out on the behalf of the RCN, found that 72% said there are too few nurses to ensure the safety of the public. Additionally, 68% said nurses are underpaid, including 58% of those who voted Conservative in June's general election.
The RCN has stated that the 1% cap on pay stands in the way of hiring and retaining enough nurses in the NHS. The organisation claims that years of pay freezes and below-inflation increases from the Treasury has seen nursing pay fall by 14% in real-terms since 2010, now worth £3,000 per year.
‘Experienced nursing staff are leaving in droves – not because they don’t like the job, but because they can’t afford to stay, while the next generation do not see their future in an under-valued profession,’ said Janet Davies, chief executive of the RCN.
The survey also found that 57% of the public are willing to pay more tax to make the NHS safer, including a majority of Conservative voters. With the NMC stating that the nursing profession is shrinking, and an estimated 40,000 nursing vacancies in England, the RCN has stated that if the pay cap is not removed, industrial action may be the result.
‘The public can see the shortage of nurses for themselves. Ministers are significantly out of touch with public opinion. They should heed this warning, scrap the pay cap and help to recruit thousands more nurses for a safer NHS,’ added Ms Davies.
‘If the Government fails to announce a change of direction in the Budget, then industrial action by nursing staff immediately goes on the table.’