If our nurses didn't work extra hours the NHS would collapse, says union

NHS: 'The root of the nursing shortage problem is money and nurses are taken for granted', says Royal College of Nursing

Many nursing positions in the NHS are vacant

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The union which represents nurses has told talkRADIO its members are propping up the NHS by working extra hours.

Josie Irwin, from the Royal College of Nursing, also said many nurses are leaving the profession or not joining due to workload pressures ultimately caused by funding issues.

Figures from NHS Digital show that more than 86,000 NHS positions were vacant in the first three months of this year, with NHS and nursing and midwifery posts showing the highest proportion of shortages.

Irwin, head of employment relations at the RCN, told Julia Hartley-Brewer: "On every shift nurses are working extra hours beyond their contracted time in order just to keep the service going.

"The words I think you quoted from the Labour Party about ‘being taken for granted’ start to be really stark.

"Workload pressures are clearly part of the problem and when you have nurses working beyond their contracted hours in order to hold the hand of somebody who is slipping away from the world, somebody is working extra hours...there’s a limit to the personal strain and the emotional stuff that goes on when that work is happening to carrying on.

"The reality is it's a combination of all these factors with money at the root."

In terms of influencing government leaders, Irwin said "our target for changing political minds is the Treasury, rather than the Department of Health and the Secretary of State for health" because the treasury makes economic decisions that impact the economy.

Listen to the full interview above