Francis Inquiry lessons risk being lost due to staff burnout, charity warns

NHS staff wellbeing is suffering under the strain of increasing service pressures at the potential cost of patient care, according to a report by the Point of Care Foundation. 

Nurses and other NHS staff have become ‘shock absorbers’ for a health service under chronic strain, according to a report.

 A charity is urging NHS leaders to strengthen measures to protect staff
from stress and burnout. Picture: iStock

The Point of Care Foundation, a charity focused on improving patient care, argues in its briefing paper ‘Behind Closed Doors’ that the hard lessons learnt from the Francis Inquiry into care failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust care are in danger of being forgotten amid endless service pressures.

The report, based on staff experiences, found only one in two staff feel valued by their employer and 2% of health and social care staff suffer work-related stress, anxiety and depression in the NHS, compared with around 1.2 percent of the overall British workforce.

The charity calls on NHS leaders to urgently strengthen measures to protect staff from stress and burnout, arguing there is a direct correlation between staff wellbeing and delivering patient-centred care.

Listening to staff

Point of Care Foundation chief executive Jocelyn Cornwell said improvements in prioritising staff experience had been ‘patchy’ since its 2014 Staff Care report.

‘While it is positive that most NHS trusts now have strategies to engage their staff, there is patchy evidence of their effectiveness. In the face of increasing pressures, it is vital that organisations take visible action which demonstrates their commitment to listening to staff.’

Josie Irwin, RCN head of employment relations, said: ‘Many nurses are under enormous pressure as chronic staff shortages continue to bite. Unless the government takes urgent steps to recruit and retain more nurses, things will only get worse.’

She added: ‘Some members tell us they barely have time to have a break or get a cup of water on a 12-hour shift – this is unacceptable and unsustainable.’

Call to NHS leaders

The report suggests initiatives that NHS leaders can adopt to foster a listening culture. These include:

  • Making psychosocial support available to all staff.
  • Providing access to reflective practice.
  • Supporting organisation-wide interventions such as Schwartz Rounds (staff forums to discuss the emotional and social aspects of care) and also smaller, alternative interventions, such as team or ward-based practices.
  • Spending time with staff and patients at the point of care to understand operational challenges.

Commenting on the report, Royal College of Midwives chief executive Cathy Warwick said: ‘Successive surveys show that midwives are finding it hard to cope with the increasing pressures placed on them and more and more are either voting with their feet or suffering from stress and anxiety.’

Further information

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