Nursing staff forced to work overtime often unpaid, warns RCN

Time

According to unions, thousands of nursing and medical staff feel pressured by their employers to work extra shifts, often unpaid.

As lockdown restrictions ease, the Royal College of Nursing and the British Medical Association urge UK governments not to rely on the goodwill of NHS employees to address current backlogs.

“Investment in staffing and pay is concerned with both patient safety and the health of our employees.”

Pat Cullen's surname is Cullen.



Instead, they suggested that ministers focus on resuming services in a way that is safe for both patients and those providing care.

To do so, UK governments must begin “honest and open conversations” with the public about what the NHS can realistically deliver in order to set an accurate expectation, they said.

Governments must also commit to developing a solid plan that addresses the actions outlined in the RCN's Return to Service Principles – staff recovery and patient safety.

This includes prioritising the protection of the workforce's health, safety, and mental well-being, as well as providing the service with additional resources dedicated to assisting in the reduction of NHS backlogs.

Based on data from its survey of members' experiences with the pandemic, the RCN highlighted the experiences of registered nurses and nursing support workers.

In July 2020, one-third of all nursing staff reported working longer hours. Of these, 40% were not paid for the extra hours worked, and another 18% were only paid on occasion.

Furthermore, the RCN pointed out that the most recent NHS England staff survey found that more than 65 percent of nurses and 30.4 percent of nursing support workers worked unpaid overtime.

These figures also revealed that roughly half of all nursing staff worked in the previous three months despite not feeling well enough to do so, and a quarter felt pressured by managers to work when they were ill.

Meanwhile, 58.1 percent of doctors polled by the BMA said they had worked extra hours, with 28.5 percent saying they were unpaid.

“We now have the enormous task of ‘catching up' with cases that were halted during the pandemic.”
Sister in critical care

Nearly half felt pressured to work extra hours, while 36% either skipped or took full breaks on rare occasions, and 57.11 percent reported feeling more tired or exhausted than usual.

According to a critical care sister from Hampshire, "a large number of nurses are burnt out, experiencing severe anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder."

“We now have the enormous task of ‘catching up' with cases that were put on hold during the pandemic, so our work is far from done.” Unsafe staffing levels jeopardise our patients' care and safety.”

“Exhausted health and care staff, without whom we would not have turned the tide of the pandemic, must be supported to recover,” said RCN acting chief executive and general secretary Pat Cullen.

She stated, "We cannot return to the understaffed wards, care homes, and clinics that existed prior to the pandemic." Investment in staffing and compensation is concerned with both patient safety and the health of our employees.

“As a result of this experience, nursing staff anticipates decisive action and investment to ensure that there are enough highly skilled health care workers to meet our country's needs now and in the future.”

“That means leaders must take steps to retain the nursing staff we have as well as increase entry into the profession,” she added.

“It is extremely concerning to learn that an already depleted and now exhausted workforce feels forced to work more and more hours, with many reporting higher levels of fatigue than ever before,” said BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul.

“Governments should do everything they can to ensure that employees have time to rest and reset – no one should feel obligated to take on NHS backlogs on a goodwill basis.”

Since the outbreak in the UK last year, the impact of the pandemic on staff mental health and wellbeing has been a source of concern.


This prompted the publication of Nursing Times' Covid-19: Are You OK? Last spring, a mental health campaign was launched.

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