65 per cent of NHS employees are considering quitting / Getty Images

UNISON survey finds 'chronic' understaffing is driving health employees to 'the very end of their tethers'

Two thirds of NHS workers are seriously considering leaving their jobs because of low pay and staff shortages, according to a union survey.

The UNISON poll of 10,500 NHS employees found that 65 per cent were considering quitting, and two in five wanted to leave healthcare altogether.

Four in five said their workload had increased in recent years and more than half said they were now routinely working unpaid overtime hours. 

Dave Prentis, general secretary of UNISON, said that understaffing in the health service had become “chronic”, driving NHS workers – including nurses, healthcare assistants, porters, cleaners, administrators and others – to “the very end of their tethers”. 

NHS staff were subjected to a two year pay freeze under the Coalition government and pay increases will now be frozen at one per cent for four years.  

“NHS pay scales have fallen way behind living costs so nurses, healthcare assistants, ambulance staff and medical secretaries have to work as many hours as they can to be able to feed their families and pay the bills,” Mr Prentis said.  

The Department of Health said it had increased staff numbers by 20,200 since May 2010 and had given one million lower paid staff a salary increase in its most recent pay deal. 

A spokesperson added: "It is not buildings or operating theatres but the nurses, porters, doctors, cooks, administrators, healthcare assistants and surgeons that make our NHS great.”

UNISON’s report, part of the union’s submission to the NHS pay review, is the latest warning of a potential exodus of staff. Doctors’ regulator the General Medical Council said last week it had seen a huge spike in applications for paperwork required to work abroad, as junior doctors threatened strike action over a controversial new contract offer that could lead to pay cuts. 

Doctors’ union the British Medical Association is meeting with the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt tonight for last ditch talks over the new contract. 

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