Exhausted NHS workers warn they are ready to quit as they brace for winter Covid pressures

Tap to watch a video report by ITV News Meridian's James Dunham

NHS workers in the south east have warned they are considering leaving their profession as they prepare for what could be one of their busiest winters due to Covid pressure.

An ITV Meridian investigation has found almost two thirds of NHS staff in the region are considering quitting, as they describe a 'broken health service.'

The results of a survey carried out by the Royal College of Nursing has been shared exclusively with ITV Meridian. It found 92% of staff felt anxious heading into winter, 82% said there is a lack of staff in their department, while 65% consider leaving.

82% of the nurses surveyed by the RCN said there is a lack of staff in their department

Ged Swinton is a highly trained nurse at Southampton General Hospital and south east chair of the Royal College of Nursing.

He said, "I think this is the worst I've experienced on the wards in thirty years. Staff are broken, they are demoralised."

  • Ged Swinton, Senior Nurse, Chair of South east RCN

The Royal College of Nursing say they are not trying to single out any particular NHS organisation, and that the problem lies with successive governments. Following the Chancellor Rishi Sunak's Budget announcement, RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive, Pat Cullen, said, “Despite lip service to levelling up, the Chancellor has ducked the opportunity to address health inequalities and invest in the country's nursing staff as a means of investing in patient safety.

"The pay freeze hit nurses working in social care and the community – but whether in the NHS or not, nursing staff need a proper pay rise that finally recognises their skill and professionalism.

"He failed to address their pay and again kicked the can down the road by failing to give any commitment to a funded strategy for England to address the tens of thousands of vacant nurse jobs in health and care.

"The public's greatest fear for health and care services is the current lack of staff. With salaries falling in real terms each year, too many more are considering their future. Patient care is paying a heavy price, as is our workforce. Any new centre or clinic requires skilled staff, as does the backlog of people needing care and support.

“Announcements on new hospitals and clinics raise patient expectations but without investment in the nursing workforce waiting lists will continue to grow.

"Patient safety should be the primary concern of every politician. Today's statement sets the direction for the next few years but completely misses the chance to address years of absent workforce planning.

Some of those surveyed by the RCN have said they feel anxious heading into winter
  •   Patricia Marquis, Royal College of Nursing

At University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, the Chief Nursing Officer has admitted they are facing the prospect of winter pressure, but they insist the situation is not compromising care.

  • Gail Byrne, Chief Nursing Officer University Hospitals Southampton

  • Paula Wilkins, Kent and Medway NHS Trust

It is estimated 40,000 NHS positions are needed nationwide, with a new NHS advert aimed to help ease the pressure.

A DHSC spokesperson said, “We know the coming months will be challenging and supporting the mental health and wellbeing of our NHS staff is a top priority.

“We’ve invested £37 million this year to fund 40 staff mental health hubs nationwide, that sit alongside a dedicated helpline and a 24/7 text support services. We have also provided the NHS with an extra £5.4 billion to deal with pressures caused by COVID-19, which includes an extra £1 billion to tackle the backlog and recover NHS services and £478 million to continue the enhanced hospital discharge programme, freeing up beds.

“Alongside this we are also rolling out the largest ever seasonal flu vaccination programme and COVID-19 booster vaccines for priority groups to ensure they are protected.”