Nurses reveal dissatisfaction with workload

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Indy Politics
MOST nurses feel underpaid and too overworked to provide patients with the level of care they need, according to the biggest attitude survey of the profession since the Government's re-organisation of the NHS last year.

The majority regularly work over their contracted hours, yet still find themselves rushing to complete essential tasks and struggling to find time for paperwork and other duties. The only exception to the mood of dissatisfaction is the comparatively small group of nurses based in family doctor practices.

Paradoxically, nurses in self-governing NHS trust hospitals and community units feel more disgruntled with salaries, but more secure in their jobs, than colleagues in non-trust hospitals. Two-thirds of nurses felt career prospects were becoming less attractive, and almost half reckoned they could get more money for less work by leaving the profession. Males nurses expressed more dissatisfaction than women.

The survey of more than 3,000 qualified nurses, by the Institute of Manpower Studies for the Royal College of Nursing, was submitted yesterday to the independent pay review body a week after nurses lodged their claim for an 8.7 per cent pay rise next year.

Christine Hancock, the Royal College of Nursing's general secretary, said the survey confirmed anecdotal evidence of growing pressures on nurses. The number of qualified nurses working in the NHS had fallen by 15,000 over the past year, yet more patients had been treated.

'There is clearly a high level of unpaid, unchosen overtime being worked. What nurses would not tolerate are cutbacks or a freeze on pay that did not apply to other parts of the public sector such as the armed forces, the police or judges,' she said.

Despite the Patient's Charter promise that each individual receiving NHS treatment should have a 'named nurse' responsible for their care, only one in seven nurses operate on this basis.

A quarter of nurses sampled had changed their job in the previous year, a reduction from 38 per cent in 1986. The highest turnover rates were in paediatrics and intensive care.

The proportion leaving nursing had also fallen to under 7 per cent, from 11 per cent in 1986-87. 'This reduction is consistent with the impact of the current recession.

'Most nurses have spouses, and in most cases, their nursing jobs will be seen as more secure than jobs outside the health care sector,' the report said.

Motivation, Morale and Mobility: A Profile of Qualified Nurses in the 1990s; Institute of Manpower Studies, Mantell Building, Falmer, Brighton, BN1 9RF; pounds 15, or pounds 10 to RCN members and IMS subscribers.