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Majority of Public Concerned Over NHS Nurse Staffing Numbers

A survey carried out by YouGov for the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) showed that three in four people are concerned there are not enough nursing staff to efficiently care for NHS patients.

The poll was carried out amongst 1,600 UK adults, 74% of which were worried about the NHS’ staffing numbers; recent figures for England have shown that one in nine posts are vacant.

The Royal College of Nursing have described the current situation within the NHS as ‘dangerous’ and Ministers have responded stating that steps are now being taken in order to recruit more nurses.  One of these steps is the pay increase, which has been offered to nursing staff; an increase of 6.5% (minimum) over three years. 

Since 2010, pay has been ‘capped or frozen’ with restrictions on training opportunities. Together, these have been blamed for the increasing number of nurses who are leaving their profession and going on to seek alternative employment.

The Royal College of Nursing’s annual conference will be held in Belfast this year, and in a launching speech its General Secretary, Janet Davies, is set to make the following statement:

“This is a failure of politicians and policymakers – with an inability to recognise the value of nursing, an unwillingness to listen to those of you who are working in the service and a lack of political will to address it. The current shortages are not only dangerous, but a vicious circle too. Poor staffing levels are the number-one reason for working-age nurses leaving the register. Good nurses do not want to do a bad job.”

Wales became the first country in Europe to introduce safe staffing legislation in 2016 and now the RCN wants to see this legislation extended throughout the UK. Though Scotland has stated it will be introducing this, England and Northern Ireland have not yet committed.

The RCN has released feedback from its members, which highlights the effects the lack of nursing staff is having on the NHS. Members stated that this led to patient care being ‘compromised,’ staff being over-run with paperwork, and not enough time for staff to eat or take breaks.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Social Care said, “The NHS would collapse without our wonderful nurses” and added that steps were being taken to recruit more of them.


Triggle, Nick. ‘Three-Quarters of Public Worried About Nurse Staffing.’ BBC News Online. 

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