Stress, pressure and concern for patients highlighted in NHS staff survey

The poll also revealed that fewer staff look forward to going to work.

30 March 2022

One in 10 NHS staff would not feel happy if a friend or relative needed to be treated at their organisation, according to a major new poll.

Workplace stress, rising rates of discrimination against staff and concerns that patients are not being listened too were all raised during the annual survey of health service workers in England.

Some 67.8% of health service workers said that if a friend or relative needed treatment, they would be happy with the standard of care provided by their organisation.

This is down from almost three quarters (74.2%) in 2020, according to the 2021 report, which included responses from almost 650,000 NHS staff.

One in 10 (10.4%) disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement.

The poll also revealed that fewer staff look forward to going to work, enthusiasm has dipped and satisfaction over pay has fallen.

Other findings include:

Some 27.2% of staff said there are enough staff at their organisation for them to do their job properly – a decline of more than 11 percentage points since 2020.

Just 72% said their organisation acts on concerns raised by patients, down from 75% in 2020, and fewer staff said that care of patients is their organisation’s “top priority” – 75.6% in 2021 compared with 79.5% in 2020.

Less than a third (32.7%) of health service workers said they are satisfied with their level of pay.

Some 46.8% of NHS staff in England have felt unwell as a result of work-related stress in the last 12 months.

The poll found that just over half (52.5%) look forward to going to work – a decline of six percentage points from 2020.

Some 23% said that they will probably look for a job at a new organisation in the next 12 months, with 16.6% saying that they intend to leave as soon as possible.

Only 59.4% wold recommend their organisation as a place to work and only 67% said they were enthusiastic about their job – down from 75% in 2019.

Some 9.1% reported being discriminated against by managers or colleagues in the last 12 months and this rose to 17% among black, Asian and ethnic minority staff.

It comes as a separate poll found that the public’s satisfaction with the NHS has fallen to the lowest level in quarter of a century.

(PA Graphics)

Just 36% of people said they were satisfied with the service in 2021, the lowest since 1997, according to the 2021 British Social Attitudes survey.

The poll, published by the King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust health think tanks, also found that for the first time since 2002 more people were dissatisfied with the NHS compared with those who were satisfied.

Some 41% were “very” or “quite” dissatisfied, with waiting times, staff shortages and funding remaining the top issues affecting people’s views.

Commenting on the NHS staff survey, Em Wilkinson-Brice, acting chief people officer for the NHS in England, said: “The NHS is nothing without the commitment and dedication of its staff and that has never been clearer than over the last two years as they have cared for over 660,000 Covid patients, rolled out the world leading NHS Covid vaccination programme, all while dealing with record levels of pressure in other parts of the health service.

“Yet staff have stepped up and looked after one another in the face of these pressures, with more people benefiting from extra support from their trust and line manager than in previous years.

“But we know the last two years will have had a knock-on effect on NHS staff, which is why we have maintained our focus on health and wellbeing as set out in our People Plan, including a 24/7 text support line, greater options of flexible working and rapid access to mental health services when needed.”

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “The overall picture does not come as a surprise given the unprecedented pressure placed on the NHS and its staff working through a pandemic with very little respite for over two years.

“The fall in staff morale is a real cause for concern, in particular in the numbers of staff who are considering leaving the workforce, there has also been a noticeable drop in the number of staff recommending the NHS as a place to work.

“NHS leaders know only too well the relentless demand being placed on their teams due to the staffing vacancies which now stand at 110,000.

“There is no hiding from the fact that the NHS is facing chronic workforce shortages, which are getting steadily worse, and with nearly three quarters of staff reporting that there are not enough staff to do their jobs properly.

“It’s high time for the Government to grasp the opportunity now presented through the Health and Care Bill workforce amendment and commit to setting out full and transparent staffing requirements for the NHS at regular intervals.

“Not doing so is a lost opportunity and will only serve to heighten staff shortages and jeopardise the inroads the health service can make into driving down patient waiting lists.”

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