New report reveals over half of London’s nurses plan to leave capital city because of cost of living

  • Majority of nursing staff blame cost of accommodation and transport;
  • RCN London proposes introduction of rent controls across private rented sector and free travel for nursing staff;
  • The College says surplus NHS land should be used to build thousands of key worker and affordable homes;

The cost of living is placing so much pressure on London’s nurses that over half say they want to leave the city. One in ten nurses say the cost of accommodation is taking up more of their income than five years ago, and one in four are struggling and increasingly worried about their finances.

These are just some of the findings of a major survey into the experiences of nurses across London.

The 2019 survey of the capital’s nursing staff, titled ‘Living in the Red: the cost of living crisis for London’s nursing workforce’first carried out in 2016, shines a light on how London’s notoriously high cost of living is hitting the pockets of nurses, causing hardship and forcing increasing numbers to consider leaving their nursing jobs in the city.

RCN London says that London’s cost of living is contributing to London’s nurse staffing crisis. In the capital, a record 10,550 nursing posts (one in six) are now unfilled, worsening year on year. Vacancy rates in London are consistently higher than any other part of the country.

As it releases the findings of its survey, the College is also making a series of bold recommendations to tackle the cost of living crisis and is urging the Mayor of London and health leaders to urgently review how they can be implemented.

They include:

  • Introducing free travel to aid the recruitment and retention of nursing staff in London;
  • Devolving powers to the Mayor of London’s office to introduce a system of private rent controls that can support more nursing staff to live in London;
  • Halting the sale of surplus NHS land and using it to develop thousands of keyworker, social and genuinely affordable homes to bring down London’s nursing vacancy rate;

RCN London is making the demand of all London Mayoral election candidates and says the measures could significantly soften the impact of the high cost of living in London and enable London’s health and care services to better recruit and retain staff.

Key findings from the 2019 RCN London survey are:

  • In five years’ time 57% of London’s nurses say they will either definitely leave London or would like to (up from 40% in 2016)
  • For those who wish to leave London, the cost of accommodation and transport were way ahead of any other deciding factors with 84% and 60% respectively;
  • 59% of nurses feel less financially stable than a year ago;
  • 26% are struggling and increasingly worried about their financial situation;
  • In the last 12 months, 50% of London’s nursing staff used credit to pay essential living costs; 38% had to borrow money from family and friends;
  • In the last 12 months, one in four (27%) nurses have missed credit card or loan payments;
  • 49% of nurses regularly work planned additional hours for extra payment.