latest health care news

06.09.17

Nurses threaten strike action as more concerns raised over staff shortages

Major concern has today been raised by members of the public who have warned that they do not think there are enough nurses to provide safe, effective care.

A survey commissioned by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and carried out by YouGov found that around 72% of the public feels the NHS lacks adequate staff to carry out care duties.

Just over two-thirds (68%) also reported thinking that nurses are underpaid. Almost 60% of the survey participants who claimed to have voted Conservative in June’s snap election agreed with this statement.

In addition, the YouGov survey found that more than half (57%) of the public are willing to pay more tax to make the health service in the UK safer.

Today’s news follows reports in the national press earlier this week that suggested the unpopular public sector pay cap could potentially be lifted by Treasury officials in Autumn Budget.

The RCN has warned that if this does not indeed happen – backed by efforts to make up for loss earnings so far – industrial action will be back on the table from union members, who have recently held a ‘Summer of Protest’ to voice their strong opinions against the pay cap.

In May, nine in 10 of the 50,000 RCN members said they would get behind industrial action short of a strike, whilst eight in 10 said they would go on strike if the cap was not lifted.

“The public can see the shortage of nurses for themselves,” Janet Davies, the royal college’s chief executive and general secretary, commented. “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.”

Davies also said that because of low wages created by the cap, experienced nursing staff are leaving the NHS “in droves” – not because they don’t like their job, but because they can’t afford to stay – whilst the next generation do not see their future in an undervalued profession.

“If the government fails to announce a change of direction in the Budget, then industrial action by nursing staff immediately goes on the table,” the CEO added.

But a spokesperson for the Department of Health explained that health secretary Jeremy Hunt had made clear ministers are well aware of the pressures faced by frontline NHS staff, and that efforts were being made to bring more nurses into the struggling workforce.

“The support and welfare of NHS staff is a top priority, and the government is committed to ensuring they can continue to deliver world-class patient care,” they stated.

“We are helping the NHS to make sure it has the right staff, in the right place, at the right time to provide safe care – that’s why there are over 31,100 more professionally qualified clinical staff, including over 11,600 more doctors, and almost 12,000 more nurses on our wards since May 2010.”

Top Image: Peter Byrne PA Wire

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