It was revealed in a recently released poll that people in the UK think that the NHS does not have enough nursing manpower on hand to handle patients in hospitals. This report comes at a time when hundreds of nurses are fighting an uphill battle of securing better pay.

More than 1,600 adults in the UK took part in this poll, which was carried out by YouGov. The findings showed that a huge percentage of the participants think that there are not that many nurses in the NHS, which was affirmed by reports indicating a total of 40,000 unfilled nursing posts in the country.

UK public aware of inadequate supply of nurses

It was found that out of ten people, seven seemed to think that there are not enough nurses available to care for patients; while the same number of people agreed that nurses are underpaid. Now, it has discovered that the nursing profession is "officially shrinking".

UK public believes that there are not enough nurses in hospitals. Photo credit: The RCN
UK public believes that there are not enough nurses in hospitals. Photo credit: The RCN

Participants agreed that they are willing to pay more tax just to ensure that the NHS stays safer for patients – and this includes the hiring of more nurses at their local hospitals. Janet Davies, RCN chief executive and general secretary, commented that people are aware of the nurse staffing shortages.

“The public can see the shortage of nurses for themselves. 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,” highlighted Davies.

The poll, which was for the knowledge of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), comes at the same time as NHS’ nursing staff are protesting at the “Scrap the Cap” rally to the government about their low income at Westminster.

“Scrap the Cap” rally: Nurses marching for better pay

Nurses in the UK want their government “to lift the 1% cap on public sector pay rises”. Several local newspapers have reported that the government does indeed have plans to lift the cap, which is something that will happen in the future – and nurses are said to be the first to benefit.

If the cap is not lifted, the next plan is for nurses to go on strike, as reported by the RCN. The RCN claimed that a huge majority of its members agreed that going on strike is the right thing to do in an indicative poll that was taken earlier this year.

According to the union, this pay restraint has made people wary of signing up to study nursing. This hesitancy among people to register for the nursing course has contributed to the current nursing shortages, which started when the low wage news spread like wildfire.

Davies explained, “Experienced nursing staff are leaving in droves – not because they don’t like the job; but because they can’t afford to stay, while the next generation do not see their future in an under-valued profession.”

A protest against government that brings nurses and their supporters together

The RCN wants the government to make the changes to be included in the upcoming autumn’s budget. More than 2,000 nurses and supporters travelled from all over the country to have their voices heard at the RCN rally, which took place outside Parliament in Central London on 9 September.

Speaking on why he took part in this protest, Nurse Teifion Woodward from South Wales expressed that they “need to work extra bank and agency shifts just to earn a decent wage. We’re all feeling the pinch because of the pay cap; but it’s wonderful to see such solidarity. We all want to stand together.”

President of the RCN, Cecilia Anim, addressed the huge crowd with words of encouragement and pride. “Today, we have told them loud and clear: we will not give up. Let’s show the government our voice is getting stronger and we’re not going to go away. Nursing matters. We matter,” she echoed.

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour health spokesman, agreed, “Nurses, midwives and paramedics should be valued and rewarded for the brilliant work that they do and the government must make their plans on NHS pay clear now, before it is too late.”

Before the protest, the Department of Health released a statement in support of the NHS staff, which read “Support and welfare of NHS staff is a top priority, and the government is committed to ensuring they continue to deliver world-class patient care.” MIMS

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