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Three-quarters of NHS staff consider leaving health service, survey says

Mental health and wellbeing cited as major concerns

Matt Mathers
Friday 08 October 2021 15:19 BST
Nearly half of respondents say they would not recommend NHS to future workers
Nearly half of respondents say they would not recommend NHS to future workers (PA)

Nearly three-quarters of NHS workers have considered leaving the health service in the past 12 months, according to a new survey.

Research by the Healthcare Workers’ Foundation (HWF) charity and its partner NHS Million found staff were increasingly concerned about their mental health and wellbeing.

The NHS has gone through one of the busiest periods in its seven decades-long history due to the coronavirus pandemic, with stress piled on staff at all levels.

Medics working long hours face another difficult winter as flu season approaches and record numbers of patients await surgery.

Staff are also embroiled in a row with the government over pay and recently turned down the offer of a 3-per-cent rise, which was branded “completely unacceptable” by a nurses’ union. Ministers said the offer was fair.

The HWF survey found that, in addition to worries about mental health and conditions, workers are concerned that simple problems such as the lack of staff break rooms remain unchanged.

Some 73 per cent of people surveyed said they had considered leaving the NHS in the past 12 months, while 52 per cent who said they did not have access to workplace wellbeing initiatives or staff rooms were considering quitting in the next year.

Overall, nearly one in three – 31 per cent – of the 1,112 people quizzed in July said they were likely to find a new job before next winter. Nearly half of respondents said they would not recommend the NHS as an employer, while 69 per cent said they felt under pressure to work while unwell.

Job satisfaction, working environment and pay were the three most important elements of an NHS post, they said.

“These findings will come as no surprise to anyone who has ever worked in the NHS, but we hope facilitating communication about this vital topic between the public and trusts will enable everyone to realise we are still not meeting the basic needs of our healthcare workers,” said Dr Dominic Pimenta, chair of HWF.

“The moral case for improving working conditions for healthcare workers is very clear, but what this survey highlights is the economic case. With one in three staff surveyed considering leaving the NHS in the next 12 months, spending a little to improve conditions now will help save billions in the future, and the time to act is now.”

HWF has partnered with NHS Million, a campaign group, to refurbish break rooms for workers.

Samantha Batt-Rawden, ICU doctor at Royal Sussex County Hospital said HWF had helped overhaul the trust’s break room and intensive care on-call room.

She added: “Before, doctors had nowhere to rest overnight, much less get their heads down before the drive home. As the tertiary centre, many doctors are placed here from all over the deanery, meaning some are commuting over three hours a day.

“Being able to have a nap before the drive and get a proper coffee has made all the difference. The last 18 months have been tough on all of us, particularly spending hours in PPE without a place to have a proper break.”

Commenting on the findings of the survey, Joseph Blunden, founder of NHS Million, said: “Trusts across the country have an endless list of priorities so it’s understandable that these kinds of facilities haven’t been at the top of their agendas.

"We are here to work with them to transform these spaces and provide healthcare workers with new and improved rooms so they can perform at their peak. We are really excited to work more closely with trusts to deliver this important initiative where there is clearly strong interest from those on the frontlines.”

The Independent has contacted NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care for comment.

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