The vital work carried out by nurses is "holding the NHS together", the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has said as it marks International Nurses' Day.

A survey carried out by the RCN discovered that nearly one in four nurses worked in excess of their contracted hours every single shift, with a quarter providing last minute cover for absentee staff at least once a fortnight.

Dr Peter Carter, RCN chief executive and general secretary, said that the nurses' role is only going to become more important during the uncertain political and economic situation.

He said: "Nurses are holding the NHS together at the moment, and our worry is that if pressures mount, patients will be the ones to suffer. Nurses know that what they do is more than just a job - and the task of caring for people at difficult times in their lives is uniquely challenging and rewarding. However, goodwill and commitment is not always enough, and many nurses are now contacting us for advice as they are facing redundancy, debt and repossession. In hard times, the important thing is to keep nurses in the profession, and able to give their best to patients."

To celebrate the occasion, the RCN has set up a special website with people's real life stories and experiences of how nursing has helped them, as well as the views of staff and patrons. To see what they have to say, please visit  

Posted by Robert Mair on 12.5.11 Comment on this article by sending it to: