NHS workers are facing a cost of living crisis that is forcing them to seek better-paying jobs in shops and hospitality, according to the body representing trusts.
A survey of NHS providers found that two-thirds (68%) of trusts reported a “significant or serious impact” from staff moving to other sectors with better terms and conditions.
Anecdotally, senior NHS figures have said they are seeing “a large number” of staff in their trusts taking other jobs outside the NHS or considering second jobs.
Employees also struggle to afford to go to work, with 71% of trustee managers surveyed saying it had a significant or serious impact on their confidence.
While the cost of living crisis is hitting low-paid workers the hardest, the pressure is being felt across the board, NHS Providers said.
Pressure on wages and the rising cost of living mean employees have to make some very difficult decisionsMiriam Deakin, NHS provider
At some foundations, executives have described how sick leave spikes toward the end of the month as pay packages expire and people can no longer afford to commute to work.
Some trusts have reported paying employees in advance for fuel, while others have helped buy school uniforms for their workers’ children.
All of those surveyed by NHS Providers (representing 54% of Trust Leaders) said they were concerned about the mental, physical and financial well-being of staff due to the pressure on the cost of living, while 61% reported an increase in staff absenteeism due to illness information based on mental health.
Overall, 27% of foundations offer employee plaques, while another 19% plan to do so.
Regarding patients, 95% of shop stewards indicated that the cost of living crisis had either significantly or greatly worsened health inequalities in their region.
The NHS has already had a problem with vacancies and we fear it will only get worseMiriam Deakin, NHS provider
Patients are forced to make difficult decisions about heating or eating, while some attend fewer appointments due to travel expenses.
Overall, 72% of Trust executives 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 a growing number of nurses and other staff, particularly in the lower pay brackets, are finding they cannot afford to work in the NHS.
“The pressure on wages and the rising cost of living means they have to make some very difficult decisions,” she said.
“The sad fact is that some can earn more working for online retailers or in supermarkets.
“Others take second jobs. We’ve heard that employees are stopping their pension contributions and can’t fill up their cars to get to work.
“The NHS has already had a problem with vacancies and we fear it will only get worse.
There are heartbreaking stories of nurses choosing between eating during the day and buying school uniforms for their children at homeMiriam Deakin, NHS provider
“The most worrying thing for us in the NHS is the very direct chilling effect that 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 sectors such as hospitality or retail that offer more competitive pay.
“A number of trusts offer food banks. There are heartbreaking stories of nurses choosing between eating during the day and buying school uniforms for their children at home.”