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Nurses 'unable to afford basic necessities'

Survey reveals many are considering quitting due to dire financial pressures

Mark Gould

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Nurses, midwives and health care assistants are twice as likely to be unable to pay for basic necessities as the average UK worker and are under such financial pressure that many are considering leaving the profession according to two new surveys.

‘Skint, shaken yet still caring. But who is caring for our nurses?’, a survey of more than 2,200 nursing staff about quality of life, by the Cavell Nurses Trust, found that, in addition to not being able to afford necessities, two in five nurses had a physical or mental health condition that was expected to last longer than a year. It also found that nursing staff are three times more likely to experience domestic abuse.

The Trust, which gives money and support to nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants facing a crisis, commissioned the survey to gauge the quality of life of nursing professionals.

In a separate report, trade union Unison found that around 86% of healthcare students are in debt, with nearly half considering leaving their course due to financial pressures. The union questioned 726 healthcare students about their changing circumstances over the last 12 months and found that the majority were forced to work other jobs to provide supplementary income. The proportion has risen from 61% in 2015 to 68% in 2016. Of these, 64% say working extra hours is affecting their ability to study.

More than four fifths (81%) of health workers in the survey said they had considered leaving, and more than half (52%) said they were serious about quitting.

Commenting on the Cavell Nurses Trust survey, Carmel Bagness, the Royal College of Nursing's Professional Lead for Midwifery and Women’s Health, said: “It is deeply concerning that some nurses and midwives, who care for others at work, are at greater risk of domestic violence. Their care and compassion should be celebrated and rewarded – not make them more vulnerable to abuse.

“With health services under such strain, it is not surprising that some face mental or physical health problems – but it is unacceptable in any situation. Not only is it damaging to the nurses themselves, but it will impact on patients and health care as a whole.”

In the RCN's evidence to the Pay Review Body, the College has called for a pay increase for all nursing staff above inflation, in order to lessen financial pressures and improve quality of life.

Christina McAnea, Unison’s head of health, said its report "paints a shocking picture of the effects of pay restraint on hardworking NHS staff. They’re having to sell or pawn their belongings, move house or ask relatives for financial help while doing critical and life-saving jobs in our health service.”

And she warned: "Next year, things will get much worse as the bursary disappears and they have no option but to take out loans." With this in mind, Unison are urging the government to look at ways of paying students a salary to alleviate the situation.

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