London is without doubt one of the great cities of the world and has plenty to offer as a place to live and work, including many globally renowned medical institutions. When it comes to job opportunities, there are plenty of nurses jobs in London.
However the capital has a notoriously high cost of living and its exorbitant house prices mean that getting on the property ladder is a pipedream for many who work there.
A survey conducted by the Royal College of Nursing earlier this year found that almost eight-out-of-10 nurses (79%) working in London worry about the cost of accommodation – with 66% saying they had thought about leaving.
And 40% of those questioned feared that they will have to leave the city within the next five years because housing is so expensive.
It’s not just accommodation that takes a big chunk out of nurses’ pay packets in London. Public transport, food and drink and the cost of services and tradespeople are all generally priced higher than elsewhere in the country.
Not very affordable
So just how expensive is it to live in London? The Lloyds Bank Affordable Cities review published last year compared property prices in UK cities to their average wages.
London featured in 7th place as the “least affordable”, with the average property costing 8.75 times the average wage. Of course, nurses’ pay is almost certain to be less than the average in London – as it’s skewed upwards by the bumper pay packets of a lucky few in the City.
While some industries are clustered in the capital, nursing is a wonderfully transferable profession and there are jobs to be found in every part of the UK – so it’s not surprising that many are choosing to head somewhere cheaper.
Top of the “most affordable” list is the pleasant Scottish city of Stirling – with properties costing 3.85 times the average wage. And historic Lancaster – close to the Lake District – was only just over 4 times the average salary. Check out our current nurses jobs opportunities in Stirling and Lancaster.
A desperate picture
Comments from some respondents to the RCN survey painted a desperate picture of life for those working in the capital.
‘I love working in London and all my family is here,’ one nurse wrote. ‘However due to the housing market and rent costs I feel I am being pushed out. Not to mention the low income (part time without any raises), travel expenses and to top it off the NMC fees raise – we are having to use our savings to get by.’
And another said: ‘Having to share with friends because you cannot afford to live alone is immensely difficult when working shifts in a stressful, emotionally difficult job. I work in one of the most expensive areas of London and it would be impossible for me to rent privately there. ‘Affordable housing’ is out of reach of most NHS staff.’
To put some figures against these statements, registered nurses starting their careers in England can expect to earn a minimum of £21,692 – which is then boosted by 20 per cent, 15 per cent or five per cent depending on whether they are working in inner London, outer London or on the fringes of the city*.
So that’s £26,030 for inner and £24,945 for outer London – with those outside but close to the capital getting £22,776.
With the average price of renting a house or flat in London hitting £1,500-per month (or £18,000 a year) in 2015**, that doesn’t leave much for food and bills.
Pay reforms biting
One senior nurse told us that reforms to NHS pay were making their presence felt on already-stretched colleagues.
‘I have noticed over the last few weeks that salaries are taking a more dramatic drop in spite of talk of a pay rise,’ she said.
‘One of my colleagues was saying that she’s £80 out of pocket and that this relates to an increase in her pension contribution which she feels she didn’t sign up to.
‘I only work with senior nurses directly. I can’t imagine what it must be like for newly qualified nurses who don’t earn much more than half of what I take home pro rata.’
However she was also keen to stress the positive side of nursing in the capital. ‘Educational opportunities and placement experiences are far better in London. That is a big pull, along with the bright lights obviously.’
Challenge to new mayor
The RCN is calling on new London Mayor Sadiq Khan to help make the city more affordable for key workers such as nurses.
Bernell Bussue, London Regional Director, RCN, said: ‘The spiralling cost of housing is directly contributing to the recruitment crisis faced by our region’s health service.
‘With staffing shortages in London getting worse by the year, while patient need continues to go up, essential services are being stretched to breaking point.
‘The new mayor needs to show real leadership and ensure that nursing staff are able to live and work here in the numbers needed to keep patients safe.’
* Figures from RCN and NHS Employers websites
** HomeLet rental index 2015