NHS staff ‘leaving for better paid jobs in retail’

While the cost-of-living crisis is affecting lower-paid staff the most, the pressures are being felt across the board, NHS Providers said.

29 September 2022

NHS staff are facing a cost-of-living crisis which is forcing them to leave for better paid jobs in shops and hospitality, according to the body that represents trusts.

A survey for NHS Providers found two thirds (68%) of trusts were reporting a “significant or severe impact” from staff leaving for other sectors where conditions and terms are better.

Anecdotally, senior NHS figures have said they are seeing “huge numbers” of staff in their trusts taking other jobs, or considering second jobs, outside of the NHS.

Staff are also struggling to afford to go to work, with 71% of trust managers surveyed saying this was having a significant or severe impact on their trust.

While the cost-of-living crisis is affecting lower paid staff the most, the pressures are being felt across the board, NHS Providers said.

In some trusts, managers have described how sickness rates rise towards the end of the month as pay packets run out, with people no longer able to afford the journey to work.

Some trusts have reported paying staff in advance for fuel while others have helped to buy school uniforms for their workers’ children.

All those surveyed by NHS Providers (representing 54% of trust leaders) said they were worried about the mental, physical and financial wellbeing of staff as a result of the cost-of-living pressures, while 61% reported a rise in staff sickness absence due to mental health.

Overall, 27% of trusts are offering food banks for staff, while a further 19% are planning to do so.

When it comes to patients, 95% of trust leaders said the cost-of-living crisis had either significantly or severely worsened health inequalities in their local area.

Patients are being forced to make difficult choices about heating or eating, while some are attending fewer appointments due to travel costs.

Overall, 72% of trust leaders said they had seen an increase in people with poor mental health due to stress, debt and poverty.

Miriam Deakin, director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers, said increasing numbers of nurses and other staff, particularly in the lower pay bands, are finding they are unable to afford to work in the NHS.

“The squeeze on pay and the rising cost of living means they are having to make some very tough decisions,” she said.

“The sad fact is some can earn more working for online retailers or in supermarkets.

“Others are taking second jobs. We have heard of staff stopping their pension contributions and not being able to fill up their cars to get to work.

“The NHS already had a problem with vacancies and our fear is that will just get worse.

“The most worrying thing for us in the NHS is the very direct chilling effect the cost-of-living crisis is having on recruitment and retention.

“Trust leaders are seeing a slowdown in people willing to join the NHS, as well as staff looking to join other industries such as hospitality or retail which offer more  competitive pay.

“A number of trusts are providing food banks. There are heart-rending stories of nurses choosing between eating during the day and being able to buy a school uniform for their children at home.”

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