RCN Scotland Survey Shows Pressure on Nursing Staff Means 6 in 10 are Thinking About Leaving their Job

Nursing staff in Scotland are feeling under enormous pressure with 6 out of 10 either considering or actively planning on leaving their job, new figures from RCN Scotland reveal.

Findings published today (Wednesday 26 January) show the level of pressure nursing staff are under, nearly two years into the pandemic.

The information comes from around 1,300 RCN Scotland members who responded to the 2021 RCN Employment Survey. It shows nursing staff are regularly working beyond their contracted hours, with nearly three quarters feeling under too much pressure at work and too busy to provide the level of care they would like.

Key findings include:

  • 61% of nursing staff in Scotland are thinking about leaving their current post.
  • From this figure, 41% said they are considering leaving, with 20% actively planning on leaving.
  • In comparison, the RCN’s UK wide Pay and Working Conditions survey, undertaken at the beginning of the pandemic found that 36% respondents were thinking about leaving that year.
  • Key reasons for thinking of leaving include feeling undervalued, feeling under too much pressure, low staff levels and low pay.
  • Nearly 40% of nursing staff are working beyond their contracted hours most shifts.
  • 67% say they are too busy to provide the level of care they would like.
  • 72% are under too much pressure at work.

The survey was carried out before the Omicron wave hit, meaning the current pressures are almost certainly even worse.

The findings sit alongside the latest workforce statistics that show there are a record 5,761 nursing and midwifery vacancies in NHS Scotland, and around 40% of care homes for adults report Registered Nurse vacancies.

The RCN Scotland report comes as Holyrood is preparing to debate the Scottish government’s 2022/23 budget this week. In light of these findings, RCN Scotland is urging the Scottish government to take steps to avoid a nursing crisis in health and social care, including implementation of safe staffing legislation and delivering a fully funded, meaningful pay rise for nursing staff.

Commenting Colin Poolman, RCN Scotland Interim Director, said:

“Nursing is a hugely satisfying and rewarding career, but with so many nursing jobs unfilled in Scotland, the situation is simply unsustainable. These findings paint a worrying picture of the pressure that Scotland’s nursing staff were under before the most recent wave of the pandemic. Staff are working unpaid overtime, are under too much pressure and unable to provide the level of care they would like.

“With around 5,000 NHS nursing and midwifery posts unfilled, it must be a wake-up call to the Scottish government that nearly 6 in 10 of our members are thinking about leaving. We need to take steps now to ensure we recruit and retain the nursing staff that health and social care needs.

“The Scottish government’s budget has to address both poor staffing levels and low pay as a priority. The Scottish government must commit significant additional funding to provide and support a sustainable workforce as well as the implementation of safe staffing legislation. We simply cannot afford to expect nursing staff in health and care settings to carry on working understaffed and poorly paid.”