Two in five National Health Service (NHS) staff in England felt sick from the stress of their job at some point last year. The Guardian reports that this was according to a survey that said the figure of 39.8% of staff feeling unwell as a result of work-related stress was the highest in five years. The survey also found that increasing numbers of doctors, nurses and other personnel felt disillusioned, were working unpaid overtime and were thinking about quitting.
Experts said in the report that the results showed an “alarming downturn” in staff wellbeing that would inevitably damage the care patients received. They said more and more NHS staff were unable to cope with the strain caused by widespread understaffing, years of tight budgets and fast-growing demand for care.
The survey, based on responses from 497,000 employees of England’s 230 NHS trusts, provides the most in-depth insight into the concerns and experiences of its 1.2m-strong workforce.
The report says other key findings include: a majority (51%) are thinking about leaving their current role and 21% want to quit the NHS altogether; more than three-quarters (78%) feel under unrealistic time pressures some or all of the time; nearly six in 10 (58%) say they do unpaid overtime every week, though that number is falling; nearly 28% have suffered back pain in the last year as a direct result of their work, up two percentage points since 2017; and fewer than three in 10 (28.6%) feel their trust takes positive action to improve staff health and wellbeing.
Professor John Appleby, the chief economist at the Nuffield Trust thinktank, said in the report: “After years of holding up against all the odds, today’s figures confirm an alarming downturn in the wellbeing of hardworking NHS staff.” He said the growing proportion of staff falling sick due to stress and the decline in staff health and wellbeing generally were “not just a matter for staff themselves but have a knock-on effect on patients, too”.
The report says poor morale could exacerbate the already serious understaffing in the NHS, which has more than 100,000 unfilled vacancies – one in 11 of all posts. The survey found 51% of staff were considering leaving, 30% often thought about leaving the trust they worked for, 22% planned to look for a new job with a different trust in the next year and 16% intended to leave as soon as they could find another job. Almost half (46%) of respondents said their trust was so short of staff that they could not do their job properly.
The report says one in seven staff said they had been attacked by a patient or a patient’s relative over the past year, especially ambulance crews and mental health staff. Just under one in five said they had been bullied, harassed or abused by a colleague and 28% had seen an error or near miss in the previous month, up three points year on year and the highest in five years.
However, the report says, some positive findings emerged. More than six in 10 staff (62%) said they would recommend their trust as a place to work, 71% would recommend it as a place to be treated (up one point) and 81% were happy with the care they gave patients.
Unmanageable workloads causing exodus of GPs in the UK
A survey of GPs in the UK has revealed that over 40% intend to leave general practice within the next five years, an increase of nearly a third since 2014. The survey of 929 GPs conducted by the University of Warwick has revealed that recent national NHS initiatives are failing to address unmanageable workloads for GPs and left them unconvinced that the NHS can respond to the increasing challenges facing general practice.
[link url="https://warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/pressreleases/over_40_of"]University of Warwick material[/link]
[link url="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/feb/26/nhs-england-survey-reveals-alarming-downturn-in-staff-wellbeing"]The Guardian report[/link]