RCN strike ballot: Two thirds (63%) of nurses choosing between food and fuel and one in five (14%) turn to food banks as vast majority call for inflation matched pay

Fiona Millington is Chief Nurse at Florence. Fiona spent over 30 years in the NHS and now works with, and advises the government on best practice and fairness for nurses and healthcare staff. She commented:

It’s an incredibly difficult time to be a nurse or carer at the moment. The government hailed nurses & healthcare workers during the pandemic but where is that support now? The proposed 5% pay increase doesn’t come close to what is needed by healthcare workers across the country. Nurses and carers are making genuine decisions, ‘Do I have something to eat that’s hot? Do I risk having to use gas to heat this up?’. The cost of living has risen at an alarming rate, but salaries are not increasing to match that cost of living. Nurses and carers, like every other profession, are finding themselves in a situation where it’s more difficult to make ends meet. It’s a really difficult situation but sadly it’s the reality we’re facing. A government implemented pay rise can not come quickly enough” 

A recent study of over 1,000 nurses, carers and healthcare workers by Florence, the healthcare platform using technology to help tackle the shortage of healthcare staff globally, found:

  • Two thirds (63%) of nurses, carers and healthcare workers are having to choose between food and fuel this winter to combat rising energy bills
  • One in five (19%) have started using food banks since the cost of living crisis started, and a further third (30%) also know colleagues who have.
  • A staggering 94% of nurses and healthcare staff are calling for the government to match pay in-line with inflation, currently increasing at nearly its fastest rate in 40 years, driven largely by the rising cost of food and fossil fuels
  • But a 5% pay rise might be too little too late, as over a quarter (28%) of nurses and healthcare staff are already planning to leave the profession in search of better pay, further adding to the chronic staffing crisis the NHS is experiencing
  • Rising cost of living is already having a significant impact on mental health
    • 79% of nurses and healthcare professionals say the rising cost of living is already negatively impacting their mental health
    • Within this, two fifths (39%) say it’s having a ‘significant impact’
    • Over half (51%) of nurses and healthcare staff taking time off to recover from stress and burnout
  • There are compound pressures on the healthcare service overall as a result of the rising cost of living – with the NHS set to face ‘intolerable pressure’
    • Four in five (79%) state the rising cost of living will see the NHS face ‘intolerable pressure’
    • Two thirds (60%) state patients will miss appointments because of the cost of transport
    • Over half (57%) predict wait times to increase. Within this, well over two fifths (45%) predict wait times to at least double, as a direct result of the rising cost of living.
  • Inflation-matched pay is not the only solution frontline nurses and healthcare staff are calling for
    • Seven in 10 (69%) state the NHS needs increased funding for critical services to ensure the quality of care is not compromised
    • Over half (53%) agree the government needs to produce long term, and coherent plans, to safeguard the future of the NHS
    • Over two in five (46%) want to see an increase in training grants to support more people into the industry overall

[Study conducted in September 2022]

Dr. Charles Armitage, Former NHS Doctor and CEO and founder of Florence, commented: “It is completely inadmissible that frontline nurses and healthcare staff are choosing between food and fuel. The cost of living crisis is having an unforeseen impact on those on low income, and nobody shouldn’t have the right to basic necessities, whether food, fuel, housing or otherwise.  

“We’re heading into a tough winter and it’s vital we take greater care of our NHS workforce. The cost of living crisis is a pandemic level crisis and not only will our workforce personally suffer, but the healthcare service overall will face intolerable pressure, at a time when it’s already on the brink of collapse. The interface between the NHS and social care, A&E and discharge, or the front door and the back door of the healthcare system, is where we’re seeing the biggest pinch points and the system is really starting to break down.

“For too long, the UK’s under-funded, over-stretched system has pushed more NHS and social care professionals to leave than to stay; with ever-growing vacancies and Covid-19 adding to the pressure. 

“Staff shortages are the single biggest threat to global healthcare. High vacancy rates are fueling long wait times, burnout, and ultimately driving the existing workforce out – all in search of less pressure and better pay. It’s unsustainable and we need an urgent, long-term solution. We need to see increased pay, greater efforts to bring more people into healthcare and enhanced training as a start. We need to look after our frontline healthcare workers, not drive them out.”


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