LETTER: Why nurses are leaving our local hospitals

Some weeks ago the front page headline was about the vast amount of nurses leaving our local hospital trust within the last two years.

Apart from a letter the following week from a Mr K. Royle questioning why this should be so, the story has received no further comment as far as I’m aware. So I feel compelled to give my understanding of the situation as I have recently left employment at the Trust with 32 years nursing experience under my belt, spent both in the NHS and private healthcare in the US.

The Trust is actively encouraging experienced nurses to leave.

Twice in the last 12 months I have been offered “severance pay” to leave. This equates to a year’s basic salary. There is no redundancy money, they can’t afford to make nurses with decades of experience and advanced training redundant.

Alongside the national pay freeze of the last few years, nurses within the Trust have also been “re-banded”.

This basically involves new job descriptions so they will be paid on a lower pay scale. So some leave to earn more at regional hospitals where their specialist training is valued. When the new Women and Newborn centre opened in November 2010, midwives had to re-apply for their own jobs and many were downgraded. At that time I was redeployed due to ill heath and settled for a post two full pay scales less than previously. The Trust would not have cared if I had gone to work at the local supermarket at that time as it would have been one less wage to pay.

The reality is that a large majority of nursing staff are now at retirement age and will not be replaced. Many retired nurses work one day a week still.

This reduces the bill the Trust has to pay in agency/bank nurses to cover shifts. Many nurses emigrate for better pay and conditions. Here there are no prospects for nurses to advance in their career as there isn’t the money to pay for higher salaries.

Due to the current training system of nursing students/midwives, the newly qualified are totally overwhelmed with the workload and they increase experienced nurses’ workloads considerably as they have to be constantly supervised and guided.

The future aim, it seems, is to replace trained nurses with health care assistants (HCAs) to reduce the wages bill. This exploits HCAs who are expected to take on more and more nursing roles while being paid the minimum wage.

Nurses have mandatory training days cancelled and have to attend them on days off as they are called in to replace colleagues off sick etc. While the Trust officials and political figures sit back and let things happen ... it is the nurses and public who will continue to suffer from a shortage of staff and the impact it has on care provision.

Joanne Gent, ex Advanced Neonatal Nurse Practitioner.