NHS `threatened by nursing crisis'

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A mass defection of nurses threatens to plunge the NHS into crisis, the Royal College of Nursing claimed yesterday.

Thousands of nurses, disillusioned by low pay, poor career prospects and lack of job security, are ready to quit, the RCN said. But the Department of Health insisted that the match between supply and demand for nurses in most areas was "better than it has ever been", and dismissed the talk of crisis.

The RCN backed its claims with evidence from a survey of 6,000 nurses which showed nearly 40 per cent would quit if they could, and 20 per cent expected to leave the NHS within the next two years.

The findings, which will be presented to the Government's Pay Review Body, come amid reports of growing nursing shortages. Nurse turnover was said to have risen to 20 per cent with many employers looking to recruit abroad. RCN general secretary Christine Hancock said: "Our evidence shows that nursing shortages are a nationwide problem, and that a substantial national pay award is needed to prevent a worsening recruitment crisis."