Survey suggests steps to ease childcare challenges for NHS staff


A lack of affordable and accessible childcare is forcing health workers to rethink their futures, according to a UNISON survey of 1,700 NHS staff working across the UK.

The findings show that a third (34%) of health workers with children under the age of ten years have looked for another job in the past 12 months because of childcare concerns. Ambulance workers, nurses, estates managers, cleaners and other healthcare staff say this is a direct result of the cost and availability of their care options.

Seven in ten say they've resorted to asking family and friends for extra help (72%). Others have changed their working patterns (48%), or reduced their hours (30%). Some have even considered moving home (12%) to cope with childcare challenges.

The survey also highlights problems with the affordability of childcare arrangements and availability of childcare for staff working in the evenings or at weekends.

UNISON says the childcare crisis is pushing NHS staff - especially women - out of their jobs at a time when the health service is many thousands of staff short. It also demonstrates that the current level of childcare provision doesn't go far enough in helping health workers with young families. Government pledges of free childcare will not come to fruition unless more nursery workers are recruited, adds the union.

There are several measures that respondents say would ease their childcare challenges. Eight in ten (82%) say better access to flexible working would help, as would increased financial support from their employer (71%), reducing shift overruns (56%) and having a workplace nursery or creche (43%).

UNISON head of health Helga Pile says: “The high price of, and access to, childcare is a major challenge for NHS staff, especially the lowest paid. The lack of available and affordable support makes it harder for workers to do their jobs. And it’s often women who are the ones having to quit because childcare has become such a nightmare.”

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