Covid Scotland: Almost two thirds of nurses considering leaving job as union warns of 'unsustainable pressure'

Almost two thirds of nurses in Scotland are considering or actively planning to leave their current job amid “unsustainable pressure”, the nursing union RCN Scotland has warned.

It is an almost 80 per cent increase on the percentage of nurses in this position at the start of the pandemic.

A survey of more than 1,000 RCN members in October showed 41 per cent of respondents were considering leaving their existing job, while 20 per cent were actively planning for this.

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Reasons for leaving included feeling undervalued, feeling under pressure, staffing shortages and pay.

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Some 67 per cent of respondents said they were too busy to give patients the care they would like, and 72 per cent said they were under too much pressure at work.

RCN Scotland interim director Colin Poolman said the current situation was “unsustainable”, with 5,721 nursing and midwifery vacancies reported last year.

“These findings paint a worrying picture of the pressure that Scotland’s nursing staff were under before the most recent wave of the pandemic,” he said.

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

The survey should be a “wake-up call” to the Scottish Government, Mr Poolman said, adding the new budget should address recruitment and pay.

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“The Scottish Government must commit significant additional funding to provide and support a sustainable workforce as well as the implementation of safe staffing legislation,” he said.

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

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The Scottish Conservatives labelled the survey results “deeply concerning”.

Shadow health secretary Sandesh Gulhane said nurses were “beyond breaking point”, and called on the Government to take urgent action.

Jackie Baillie, Labour health spokesperson, 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.”

Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said the figures showed nursing was at risk of “disintegration”.

"Day after day nurses have gone above and beyond the call of duty, putting their own lives at extra risk to care for others,” he said.

"For some it has just been too much. These figures show that the profession is at risk of disintegration. The health secretary should spend a day on the frontline and see what they are going through.”

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A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are immensely grateful for the incredible efforts of all of our NHS and Social Care staff over the course of the pandemic. We are demonstrating that gratitude through our actions, not just warm words.

“Our nurses and NHS staff are already the best paid in the UK. The 2021/22 pay uplift saw staff receive an average 4 per cent pay rise, the highest in the UK.”

The spokesperson added: “We also have a range of resources including the National Wellbeing Hub, a 24/7 national well-being helpline, confidential mental health treatment through the workforce specialist service and funding for additional local psychological support.”

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