Headlines: July 10th, 2000

The working lives of nurses in the NHS deters recruitment and retention. This is the conclusion of a King’s Fund report ‘The Last Straw’ based on interviews and focus groups with nurses and managers across the NHS.Although nurses are highly dissatisfied with many areas of their work, they are intensely loyal and the NHS takes advantage of this loyalty. This finding is borne out by a comparative survey of public and private sector employees by ORC International who found that 93% of NHS employees like the kind of work they do and 69% feel that their job makes good use of their skills and abilities. This compares with 73% and 57% respectively of those working within the Retail sector.

The King’s Fund report identifies low pay is a major factor in causing discontent. This was confirmed by the ORC International survey which found that only 27% of NHS employees believe that their earnings relate to their duties and responsibilities, whereas 48% of those working within Retail organisations believe this to be true. Other causes of discontent include working in bleak conditions, frustration that resource constraints affect their ability to care for patients and the limited control they have over what happens around them.

‘The Last Straw’ argues that the NHS needs to make improvements on all these fronts if it is to recruit and retain nurses successfully. In particular, NHS managers must be more willing to listen to nurses.