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Public believe many more nurses needed for safe care

Most UK adults think nurses are underpaid and unfairly portrayed by media

Louise Prime

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Most people believe many more nurses are needed in hospitals in order to deliver safe patient care, according to poll results revealed by the Royal College of Nursing this morning. The poll also showed that the public overwhelmingly thinks that nurses are underpaid, and are unfairly portrayed in the media.

The RCN said that it was already concerned that there are fewer nurses now than there were in 2010, and that as a result of the shortfall in nursing staff an already overstretched workforce is having to undertake more work than ever, which it said has “serious implications for patient care and staff welfare”.

It commissioned Ipsos MORI to conduct a survey of British adults’ views of nursing. The results showed that:

  • Nearly nine out of ten (88%) agreed that many more nurses are needed in hospitals to deliver safe care.
  • Fewer than one in five (19%) said they agreed that nurses who provide frontline care are paid a fair wage for the work that they do.
  • Fewer than a third (27%) said they think that the media portray the nursing profession fairly.
  • More than four out of five (83%) said that nurses should speak up in the general election campaign about what they believe matters.

The union has warned that nurse staffing has been cut back to the bare bones. It has demanded that all political parties listen to both nurses and the public, ahead of next week’s general election, and urged them to prioritise a long-term strategy to train, recruit and retain enough nurses to meet the demands facing the NHS. It wants to persuade voters to scrutinise all the parties’ policies, and in particular to encourage nurses to vote. To this end, it has developed a full manifesto, based on its members’ priorities and a breakdown of several parties’ health policies; this can be read on its campaign website Nursing Counts.

RCN chief executive and general secretary Dr Peter Carter said: “This election has shown how central the NHS is to people’s lives … Voters are astute in their understanding of how health services work, and how much they rely on having the right number of staff to operate safely.”

He added: “Our Frontline First campaign has demonstrated that nurse staffing has been cut back to the bare bones, and people are looking to whoever forms the next government to ensure that it can’t happen again.

“Nurses should take heart from the clear public support they have for the work they do. However, this is not enough on its own to sustain morale through hard times, in the face of negative media portrayals which the public see as unfair.

“Many respondents in the Ipsos MORI survey don’t believe that nurses providing frontline care are paid a fair wage for what they do, raising concerns about the UK’s ability to keep people in the profession for the long term ...

“Nursing is central to the NHS and the NHS is a defining issue for the future of the country … all parties would do well to remember the value of nursing and the public’s desire to see the profession recognised and rewarded.”

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