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Thursday, 31 October, 2002, 00:33 GMT
Half of nurses 'consider quitting'
A newly-qualified nurse earns 16,005 a year
Half of all nurses have seriously considered leaving their jobs because of poor pay, a survey suggests.

The findings published by the trade union Unison also reveal that one in four nurses has a second job to help them make ends meet.

In addition, many of those questioned suggested the pressure of working in the NHS was having a damaging effect on their health and personal relationships.

Long hours and increasing workloads are clearly taking their toll on nurses

Pete Low, Unison
Unison officials described the findings as shocking and said they highlighted the need for a significant pay increase for nurses.

The findings will be submitted to the independent Pay Review Body which will decide nurses pay.

Staff shortages

The survey of 3,500 nurses and midwives by independent research organisation TURA, suggests that most nurses believe the NHS has got worse rather than better.

Nearly two-thirds of nurses report frequent staff shortages and four out of five say their workload has increased.

Over half said they were treating more patients and only 8% said staff numbers had risen.

Some 62% said they would not recommend nursing as a career and 80% said they did not believe they are well paid for the job they do.

Only one in five said their trusts had implemented "family friendly policies" while one in three said managers were trying to recruit nurses from overseas to tackle staff shortages.

Half of those who said they had a second job are bank nurses - a pool of nurses willing to work extra shifts in their own trust.

Pete Low, Unison's head of nursing, said the findings showed nurses were under pressure.

"Our survey shows that long hours and increasing workloads are clearly taking their toll on nurses, and sadly this will have a knock-on effect on patient care.

"We cannot rely on overseas nurses to keep plugging the gaps, when there is a world-wide shortage of trained staff."

Extra pay

He warned that a significant pay increase was needed to stop many nurses from leaving the NHS.

"The Pay Review Body must act now to stop nurses simply slipping away. We cannot afford to lose more trained nurses through poor pay and unrealistic workloads.

"With over 40% of nurses due to retire in the next 10 years, there is no time to lose."

Mr Low said other changes, such as introducing family friendly working practices, could also improve the situation.

"It is disappointing that so little seems to be happening to implement family friendly policies throughout the NHS.

"It is clear that many nurses work for agencies because they can choose when they work and what hours they work.

"This is not surprising when you consider that the vast majority of nurses are women and 73% say their working hours conflict with family commitments.

"A more flexible approach would enable them to continue working for the NHS and in addition would attract more women back into nursing."

Trade unions are also calling for the gap between nurses' pay and that of teachers and police officers to be closed.

A newly-qualified nurse is paid 16,005 a year - some 10% less than teachers and 14% less than police officers.

Government response

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "We already have nearly 40,000 more nurses working in the NHS than there were in 1997.

"This is partly because nurses' pay has dramatically increased by at least 26% in cash terms since 1997.

"Newly-qualified nurses' pay has increased by 35%. But it also because nurses can now work in a flexible and family-friendly way.

"We expect this good progress to continue."

Peter Lowe, Unison
"Pay is a central key to why people are leaving the profession"
See also:

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