The NHS is losing thousands of nurses each year because or increased workloads, pay cuts, and low morale, new figures show.

According to a report by BBC News, the number of nurses leaving NHS England has risen 20% since 2012-13, with more than half of those that chose to quit under the age of 40.

More than 10% of the nursing workforce have left the NHS in each of the past three years, and the rise in younger nurses leaving the profession demonstrates a “dangerous and downward spiral”, nurse leaders have warned.

Royal College of Nursing head Janet Davies said: “The government must lift the NHS out of this dangerous and downward spiral.

“We are haemorrhaging nurses at precisely the time when demand has never been higher.

“The next generation of British nurses aren’t coming through just as the most experienced nurses are becoming demoralised and leaving.”

Morale is down across the health service, after doctors and nurses have been forced to receive real-terms pay cuts since 2010 under the Conservative austerity agenda. Staff salaries have already been cut by 6% since the coalition came to power in 2010, and if current trends continue will see a 12% pay cut by the end of the decade.

Lower paid staff such as nurses face particularly acute issues because of the cuts. A recent poll commissioned by Unison found that more than one in three (37%) have been forced to turn to family and friends for financial support within the last year, and one in ten (10%) have had to pawn possessions to meet their monthly living budget.

Unison head of health, Sara Gorton, said: “It is obvious that a pay rise would boost staff morale. The increase in workload, cuts to services, staff shortages and low pay have all contributed to making the NHS a difficult and pressurised place to work.

“Awarding health employees a decent pay rise would not only give staff the recognition they deserve, it would also allow the NHS to hold on to its experienced and dedicated workforce.

“Health workers are far from greedy but the expectations placed on them keep on rising while their pay has been stagnating. It’s hardly surprising that an increasing number are leaving the NHS for better paid jobs elsewhere.

“This survey is NHS staff saying in their own words how much a decent pay rise would mean to them. We are calling on the government to listen to health workers and pay them fairly.”

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