One in five NHS workers are either looking for a new job or are already set to leave for better-paid positions, according to new research.
Of those considering leaving, most said an inflation-busting pay rise would persuade them to stay.
The survey of more than 2,000 workers revealed that the rising cost of living and years of poor pay increases for NHS staff, mean more are struggling with day-to-day living costs, said unions.
Their report said the situation was worsening by the week, with more staff falling into debt and turning to foodbanks to feed their families.
The main reasons why staff are considering leaving the NHS was because their pay was not keeping up with inflation, the increasing cost of driving for work and hospital parking charges, said the report.
The survey was part of a campaign representing 13 NHS health unions including the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), Unison, Unite, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) and the GMB.
They expect the Government to make an announcement soon on how much of a pay rise NHS staff will receive this year.
Alice Sorby of the RCM said: “We have all warned the Government that the NHS staff recruitment and retention crisis cannot be solved without a game changing retention package and an inflation-busting pay rise.
“Without this the NHS will continue to lose staff at alarming rates. Staff have had enough, and they are now at breaking point. It’s within the Government gift to turn this worsening situation around by paying all NHS staff what they are worth.”
Unison’s head of health, Sara Gorton, said: “NHS staffing is in crisis and services are suffering. Without a significant pay rise, under-pressure health workers won’t stick around. That’ll make delays and cancellations a whole lot worse.
“Ministers must find the cash to invest in an urgent retention package, starting with a pay rise to deal with the cost-of-living crisis. That’s the way to ensure patients get the treatment they need.”
Claire Sullivan of the CSP added: “These shocking figures must act as a wake-up call. NHS staff are exhausted and overworked after the hardest two years of their working lives.
“More than ever before, the NHS must be able to recruit new staff but also to retain its current workforce; a real terms pay rise is an essential component of making that a reality.”
Comments from those surveyed included:
– Melissa, a physiotherapist, said: “Despite working full time, I struggle to pay my bills and pay off debt. I can’t plan for the future – a family or home – because my ability to save is affected by inflation and the lack of pay rise.”
– Sarah, a midwife, said: “We’re stretched beyond our limits. I see colleagues crying and overwhelmed regularly. I work 12-hour-plus shifts with no break or food, and I’m working so many unpaid extra hours that my actual wage is probably below minimum wage.”
– Adele, a nurse, said: “I work with people just like myself, who cannot afford to pay their bills. It isn’t acceptable, we’re caring for patients but who is caring for the staff? I don’t feel as though staff are valued or rewarded for their hard work. It is devastating that we’re breaking our backs caring for patients and it also feels as though we’re not allowed to speak about the issues.”
– Karl, a radiologist, said: “There are many highly qualified people who work for the NHS despite the fact they could easily find employment in the private sector where they would be much better compensated. Our commitment and sacrifice should not be exploited by diminishing our pay through a combination of insufficient pay increases and increased taxes.”