More than half of nurses in Scotland are considering quitting, new RCN survey shows

Three out of five nurses in Scotland are thinking about leaving their job, research has shown.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Scotland interviewed about 1,300 of its members for its 2021 Employment Survey, of which 61% said they are considering leaving their current role.

Of those, 20% said they are actively planning on quitting.

The survey was done before the Omicron wave hit in December.

Colin Poolman, RCN Scotland interim director, said: “These findings paint a worrying picture of the pressure that Scotland’s nursing staff were under before the most recent wave of the pandemic.

“Staff are working unpaid overtime, are under too much pressure and unable to provide the level of care they would like.”

The figures compare to RCN’s 2020 UK-wide Pay and Working Conditions survey which found just over a third (36%) of nurses who responded said they were thinking about leaving that year.

According to the survey, respondents said feeling undervalued, working under too much pressure, low staff levels and low pay are the main reasons why they want to quit their job.

Almost 40% said they are working beyond their contracted hours most shifts, with 67% saying they are too busy to provide the level of care they would like.

Almost three quarters (72%) of respondents said they are under too much pressure at work.

The survey comes as Holyrood is preparing to debate the Scottish Government’s 2022/23 budget this week.

RCN said it is urging the Scottish Government to take steps to implement safe staffing legislation and to give nursing staff “a fully funded, meaningful pay rise.”

Mr Poolman added: “The Scottish Government’s budget has to address both poor staffing levels and low pay as a priority.

“It must commit significant additional funding to provide and support a sustainable workforce as well as the implementation of safe staffing legislation.

“We simply cannot afford to expect nursing staff in health and care settings to carry on working understaffed and poorly paid.”

Last month, official figures showed vacancies for nurses and midwives in Scotland had increased by almost 20% in just three months.

RCN said there are currently a record 5,761 nursing and midwifery vacancies in NHS Scotland, and about 40% of care homes for adults in the country report Registered Nurse vacancies.

Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary, Dr Sandesh Gulhane MSP, said the results of the latest RCN Scotland survey are “deeply concerning”.

He said: “Humza Yousaf has completely failed to address the pressures being felt by nurses.

“This survey shows the devastating impact Humza Yousaf’s flimsy NHS Recovery Plan is having on staff who feel that they are not being supported and that must urgently change.

“Otherwise, the Health Secretary will oversee an exodus of nurses from our health service in the near future.”

Scottish Labour deputy leader and health spokesperson, Jackie Baillie, said the survey should be a “wake-up call for the Cabinet Secretary”.

“It’s all too clear that years of SNP neglect have pushed Scotland’s hard-working and under-valued nurses to breaking point,” she said.

“We cannot re-build our NHS after the pandemic if our nurses are ready to leave the profession in droves.

“It’s high time that the immense pressure that our nurses are under was recognised and action was taken to improve their conditions and lessen their workloads.”

RCN Scotland remains in a trade dispute with the Scottish Government after members rejected the NHS pay offer for 2021/22 on the basis that it did not go far enough to address nursing recruitment and retention.

A Scottish Government spokesperson responded to the survey, saying nurses and NHS staff in Scotland received an average 4% pay rise in the 2021-22 pay uplift, which makes them the highest paid in the UK.

“As we head into negotiations for the next pay settlement we are committed to ensure that NHS Scotland nursing staff continue to benefit from the best pay and conditions in the UK,” the spokesperson added.

“The Scottish Government remains committed to supporting NHS staff, and this year we have made £12 million available to support workforce wellbeing, we will continue to engage with our staff to ensure they get the necessary support they need.”

The spokesperson pointed to the government resources available to nurses, including the National Wellbeing Hub, a 24/7 National Wellbeing Helpline, confidential mental health treatment through the Workforce Specialist Service and funding for additional local psychological support.

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