Are nurses taking a second job to survive?

Published: 17th Nov 2017

In brief

Claim

A quarter of nurses need a second job.

Conclusion

23% of respondents to a survey of Royal College of Nursing members said they had taken an “additional paid job”, such as agency nursing, to help pay everyday bills and living expenses. We don’t know how representative this is of all nurses and this is based on a low response rate (8%).

 

Many nurses have to go to food banks.

 

Media reports show that at least some individual nurses and trainees have visited food banks. We do not have solid evidence of the scale of use.

Claim 1 of 2

“A quarter of our nurses need a second job. Many of them have to go to food banks.”

Emily Thornberry MP, 16 November 2017  

23% of respondents to a survey sent out to Royal College of Nursing (RCN) members said they had taken an additional job in the last year, such as agency nursing, to help pay everyday bills and living expenses. We don’t know how representative this is of all nurses, and this is based on a low response rate (8%).

Media reports show that at least some individual nurses and trainees have visited food banks and we’ve look at that in more detail here. We don’t have solid evidence of the scale of use.

A quarter of nurses responding to a survey said they had taken an additional job to pay the bills

A Royal College of Nursing employment survey released to the press this week found that 23% of respondents said they had “taken out an additional paid job” in the last year to meet daily bills and everyday living expenses.

The survey hasn’t been published, which is required for professional pollsters who are members of the British Polling Council. The RCN sent us a copy of the press release and initial findings. The questions can be found here.

The RCN told us the survey was sent out to 100,000 randomly selected members, out of their 435,000 members. Only 7,720 responded (8%).

According to the organisation that carried out the survey, the Institute for Employment Studies, these respondents had fairly similar demographics, educational levels and jobs to those of the RCN membership as a whole and so it can be said to be representative of the RCN’s membership—but we don’t have the full data to verify this.

If this is the case, then it increases the likelihood that the survey is representative of the RCN’s membership, but it’s still only a rough guide. The 8% who filled out the survey may still be different in ways that weren’t measured to the 92% who didn’t respond.

There are around 690,000 nurses and midwives registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (which nurses and midwives have to be registered with to work in the UK). The RCN doesn’t say the survey is representative of all nurses in the UK.

The Royal College of Nursing asked, “To meet your daily bills and EVERYDAY living expenses (rather than costs), have you done any of the following over the last year?”. 23% said they had “taken out an additional paid job”. The most common answer, selected by 50% of respondents, was “worked extra hours in your main job”.

Of those who said they took on an additional job, around half worked as a bank nurse, and 30% said they worked as agency nurses. Bank nurses are nurses that work covering other shifts when people are absent through sickness or on leave, or if a job is vacant.

Some nurses’ pay has reduced by between 7% and 11% since 2010

Nurses and health visitors working in hospitals and community health services in NHS England earned an average of £31,000 in the 12 months to June 2017. That figure is the same whether you look at their basic pay for a full-time equivalent post or the total average earnings per person.

It’s just slightly higher than the average for all NHS England staff working in hospitals and the community using the FTE measure and slightly lower using the total average earnings.  

Averages aren’t always that helpful when looking at something like pay though as the experience can vary quite a lot from person to person.

Once qualified nurses start working in the NHS they begin at pay band 5. This means that the entry level salary for a nurse or midwife in NHS England was £22,128 in 2017/18.

Nurses at pay band 5 have seen their pay reduced by between 7% and 11% between 2010 and 2016. That’s once you account for inflation, according to the King’s Fund health think tank.

Update 22 November 2017

We updated the piece with further information from the Royal College of Nursing about its survey.

This factcheck is part of a roundup of BBC Question Time. Read the roundup.


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