East Anglia's nurses appeal for more public support to boost NHS

Nurses campaigning in Bury St Edmunds

Natalie Brooks, centre, is campaigning for more support for the NHS. - Credit: Archant

The leader of the main nurses' union in East Anglia has asked for more support for her members as they struggle to cope with demand for hospital and community services.

Natalie Brooks, the chair of the Royal College of Nursing in the East of England, said that while there were claims that the problems this winter had been caused by Covid, problems had been growing for more than a decade.

She said: "Our members, providing frontline nursing care to patients under extremely challenging circumstances, are exhausted.

"They are aiming, as always, to provide the highest standards of safe and effective care at a time of high demand and staffing shortages. 

"It would be easy to blame the current staffing pressures on the COVID-19 pandemic – a combination of more patients needing COVID treatment and rising staff sickness levels due to illness and isolation. This is certainly where the government would like to pin the blame. 

"The reality is that the current problems have been a long time in the making. For more than a decade the Royal College of Nursing has been warning that the NHS and wider health and care system is so short of nursing staff that patients do not always receive the safe and high standard of care they expect."

She said there were several factors: A loss of nurses from EU countries, changes to nursing student finance, a failure to award staff a fair pay rises, and lack of clear career plans within the NHS.

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The government has announced a major increase in NHS spending - funded by an increase in National Insurance - but there remains concerns that this will not be adequate to cope with an ageing population and the RCN has asked people to write to their MPs to try to push spending up.

Ms Brooks added: "While we all hope the pressures piled on by COVID-19 will soon start to subside again, the underlying workforce shortages, declining morale and unsustainable pressures will remain.

"In fact they are driving nursing staff to seriously consider leaving the job they love. It is now imperative that our political leaders act on the concerns raised by the RCN, our members and others working in health services."