Wednesday, October 6, 1999 Published at 09:19 GMT 10:19 UK
NHS still losing nurses
Nurses are quitting the NHS because of family pressures
The lack of family-friendly policies is forcing nurses to give up their jobs just as the government is spending millions to increase numbers, a survey suggests.
The government has spent millions on a nurse recruitment drive which has so far brought more than 2,000 nurses and midwives back into service.
But the survey of 1,000 nurses, carried out by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and Nursing Standard magazine, suggests that more nurses than ever are quitting because they cannot balance their work and home lives.
A third of nurses who are giving up NHS work say is the reason, as opposed to a quarter four years ago.
And 38% of those questioned said the stresses of mixing work with family responsibilities was having an adverse effect on patient care.
No help from hospitals
They say that many hospitals are not introducing family-friendly policies.
RCN General Secretary Christine Hancock said: "With a current shortage of 15,000 nurses, employers can no longer afford to ignore the needs of nurses if they are to retain a committed, experienced, workforce."
The main stumbling block for many nurses with families are rotating shift patterns which mean they often have to start work in the early hours, or finish late at night.
Jo Beamish, a NHS nurse, told the BBC: "Not only do you have problems with childcare but you also have problems getting someone early in the morning when you start work, or late in the evening when you finish."
She said that nurses were not highly enough paid to afford it.
Nurses go private
Many nurses opt to leave the NHS and become private agency nurses, which gives them not only far more control over their working hours, but often far better rates of pay.
Because of the shortage of NHS nurses, many of them end up hired by the very hospitals they have left.
The survey showed that almost a fifth of nurses had taken time off in the previous year due to the breakdown of caring arrangements for either children or dependents - many said they had taken sick leave in such circumstances.
And nearly a third felt that their chances of promotion had been harmed by their family responsibilities.
The encouragement of family-friendly policies is key to the government's drive to attract more nurses back into the profession, or encourage people to train as nurses.
The government's own figures suggest that recruitment of nurses is improving.
Prime Minister Tony Blair has written in support of the Nursing Standard's "Making Time" campaign, which calls for more flexible working arrangements for nurses with families.
He said: "There is a great deal more to do to enable all NHS staff to juggle the conflicting pressures of home and work. We want to see innovative and practical family friendly initiatives right across the NHS."