Six in ten health service staff have worked while unwell, NHS staff survey reveals

NHS staff are still putting themselves under pressure to go to work when feeling unable to perform their duties, an official survey has revealed.
Sick nurse

Six out of ten health service employees have worked while unwell in the last three months, the annual NHS staff survey reveals.

The 2016 NHS survey found that 60% of staff reported coming into work, despite feeling unable to perform duties due to illness. Photo: iStock

Some 423,000 employees in England took part in the 2016 survey, which captures staff views on topics such as patient care, job satisfaction, health and wellbeing, 

Other findings included stress-related illness still affecting more than one in three (37%) members of staff, down from 39% on 2015.

‘Immense pressure’

While 47% of those in hospitals felt there were not enough staff in their trust to do their job properly. 

The RCN said it was 'alarmed' at the findings which show staff are under  'immense pressure' particularly 'due to understaffing'.

The college was also concerned by 15% of staff admitting they had experienced physical violence from patients, relatives or other members of the public, while 28% had to deal with harassment.

Discrimination from both patients and other members of staff also remains an issue.


  • Number of staff feeling unwell due to stress at lowest since 2012, at 37% (down 2% from last year)
  • 74% of staff were enthusiastic about their job.
  • Staff satisfaction with support from immediate management has continued to improve, with a 3.76 rating out of 5, up slightly on last year.
  • Confidence and security in reporting unsafe clinical practice improved from 3.63 out of 5 (in 2015) to 3.67 (in 2016)


  • 60% of staff reported coming into work despite feeling unable to perform duties due to illness.
  • 59% reported working unpaid overtime each week.
  • 6% of staff reported receiving discrimination from patients and 8% reported facing discrimination from their team or managers.
  • Almost one in three (30%) of staff felt they did not have enough time to meet all demands.

The staff survey also found only 37% were satisfied with their pay, while 59% of staff said they worked unpaid overtime each week.

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said: 'On the eve of the budget, this is another reminder for the government of how NHS staff across the board are straining to hold things together. NHS staff are its backbone and the government cannot hope to keep getting by on their good-will.

'Tomorrow, the government must give the NHS the money it needs to keep patients safe and wards staffed at the right level. Ministers should offer nurses and health care assistants a pay increase that keeps pace with the cost of living and not another real-terms cut.'

‘Senseless cash squeeze’

Unison head of health Christina McAnea said: 'There are simply too few staff to cope with the growing demands being made on the NHS. Many regularly stay past the end of their shifts, only too aware of the effect upon patients and colleagues if they head for home on time.

'Yet despite their sterling efforts, many still feel they cannot deliver the care patients deserve. This isn’t their fault, it’s the government’s and the harm being inflicted by its senseless cash squeeze.'

Recognising improvements in 26 of the 32 key areas, the chief executive of NHS Employers Danny Mortimer said 'against all the odds' staff were feeling better at work because of support from their teams and management.

But, he added there was 'real concern' with bullying and the poorer experience of black and minority ethnic staff.

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