Two thirds (63%) of nurses and healthcare workers state they are having to choose between food and fuel to combat rising energy bills, a new study reveals.
A study of over 1,000 nurses, health and social care workers, conducted by Florence, the healthcare platform using technology to help tackle the shortage of healthcare staff globally, also found that nearly one in five (14%) nurses have started using food banks since the cost of living crisis started. A further third (30%) also know colleagues who have.
It comes as meteoric rises on energy bills and inflation are having a widespread impact on nurses and carers, often on a low income. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN), which represents nurses, has approved strike action, marking the first national walk out of nurses in history.
Rising cost of living and mental health
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.
Stress, worry and anxiety are all factors attributed to increased financial pressure.
The study by Florence found 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’
As a result, over half (51%) of nurses and healthcare staff have had to take time off to recover from stress and burnout, and over a third (35%) say they’ve already seen a significant increase in mental health related staff absences.
A staggering 94% call for a pay increase in-line with inflation as a quarter (28%) already plan to leave the industry in search of better pay
Impact of rising cost of living on the healthcare service
While front-line nurses and healthcare staff are facing immense pressures due to the rising cost of living, the healthcare service overall is facing critical risk.
The study found that four in five (79%) nurses and healthcare staff 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 and 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.
The latest figures show wait times showed not a single NHS Trust in England out of 111 met A&E waiting time targets during the year from April 2021 to March 2022. A total of 6.8 million people were waiting to start treatment at the end of July, up 6.7 million in June and is the highest number since records began.
While wait times are set to increase, over half (56%) of nurses and healthcare staff predict the rising cost of living will lead to people needing to use NHS services more frequently, adding to the pressure.
Over half (54%) predict GP appointment wait times will increase significantly, and a further 52% are predicting higher ambulance call outs, which are also sitting at some of the highest levels on record.
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, and over half (53%) agree the government needs to produce long term, and coherent plans, to safeguard the future of the NHS.
Furthermore, over two in five (46%) want to see an increase in training grants to support more people into the industry overall, helping to close the gap between staffing levels and vacancy rates.
Fiona Millington, Chief Nurse at Florence, 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 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 cannot come quickly enough.”
Dr. Charles Armitage, 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 fuelling 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.”
Study of 1,020 NHS and social care workers, conducted September 2022
Respondents: Qualified workers within nursing, social care, elderly care, mental health and NHS.
Florence is an innovative technology company for social care. Its free app connects nurses, carers and support workers with shifts and e-learning, while organisations are given a full suite of powerful workforce management tools.
Florence is a fast-growing healthcare platform using technology to help tackle the shortage of healthcare staff globally. Florence works with over 90,000 nurses and healthcare workers, and over 2000 organisations. The company serves more than a quarter of social care in the UK and operates across 99% of the country.
Florence, which has raised a total of $50 million (£35.5 million), was launched in 2017 by NHS doctor Charles Armitage and ex-British Army officer Dan Blake as a response to the UK’s care staffing crisis. The company is on a mission to fix the healthcare staffing gap and make care outstanding for everyone. Florence works with 100,000 e-learners, 90,000 workers and over 2000 organisations. Find more about Florence at www.florence.co.uk.