NHS Staff Leaving For Better Working Conditions In Supermarkets

The ongoing staffing shortage in the National Health Service has been put into a stark light by reports that nurses are quitting their jobs to take up better paid and less stressful work in supermarkets.

A 2016 estimate by the Royal College of Nursing suggested that the health service is short by around 40,000 nurses, which they attach to a combination of factors. These include a lack of new workers from other EU countries (caused by the Brexit vote), stagnant pay for existing staff and a poor working environment.

"Pay is becoming uncompetitive," said Chris Hopson, NHS Providers chief exectuive, to the London Economic. "Significant numbers of trusts say lower paid staff are leaving to stack shelves in supermarkets rather than carry on with the NHS."

"We are getting consistent reports of retention problems because of working pressures in the health service causing stress and burnout."

One woman, who did not want to give her real name, told the newspaper that she had decided to leave the NHS to take a job at Lidl.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

"Since I was a child I wanted to be a nurse and help care for people," said the former nurse.

"I went straight into nursing from school. I knew it wasn't the best-paid career, but I thought it would be worthwhile and I'd be making a difference.

"Sadly, it got to the point where my morale was so low, I couldn't take it anymore."

Staff at Lidl can expect to receive salaries that are higher than average for shop workers, with 30 holiday days a year, 10 percent store discount and long-term career prospects.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

"Lots of my colleagues were leaving the profession, going home [to their country of origin] or joining [private] nursing companies;" added the woman.

"There weren't enough nurses on the ward, so we couldn't do our jobs very well. Patients would just complain at us all day because they weren't getting the attention they needed.

"[The price of] everything's going up and it's harder and harder to make ends meet. We're never able to treat ourselves or go on holiday. Everything I buy for my daughter is second hand including her school uniform.

"A new Lidl opened up near the end of my road so I applied and got the job. It means I don't need to drive to work anymore, where I was even charged for parking."

She concluded: "The best thing is my hours are a lot more sociable.

"Pay is around the same level, but I get ten per cent off my shopping and I've sold my car, which saves a lot of money. Overall I'm slightly better off, but I have much, much less stress."

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

Last month, Prime Minister Theresa May announced the NHS would receive a boost of £20 billion ($26.5bn) a year by 2023, to be funded by a 'Brexit dividend'.

The claim would mean that the £114bn ($151bn) budget will rise by an average of 3.4 percent annually. However, that's still less than the 3.7 percent average rise the NHS has had since 1948.

Speaking in a BBC interview, Mrs May did not elaborate on how the £20bn a year would be funded but told Andrew Marr: "As a country we will be contributing more, a bit more, but also we will have that sum of money that is available from the European Union.

"What we're doing is saying very clearly as a government that the NHS is our priority. And it's right, because the NHS matters to people.

"We have looked carefully at what we have put into the NHS to ensure that we deliver world-class healthcare."

Featured Image Credit: PA

Mike Wood

Mike Meehall Wood is a freelance journalist and translator. He writes for LADbible, VICE and countless sports publications, focusing on rugby league, football and boxing. He is a graduate of Leeds University and maintains a fizzy pop obsession. Contact Mike at [email protected]

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