NHS staff survey reveals rise in workplace pressures as well as levels of job and pay dissatisfaction

More than one third of NHS staff in England have experienced work-related stress in the past year, according to the largest workforce survey in the world

More than one third of NHS staff in England have experienced work-related stress in the past year, according to the largest workforce survey in the world

  • NHS Staff Survey 2017 polled 400,000 staff.
  • More than half report working unpaid overtime every single week.
  • 66.8% 'agree' or 'strongly agree' that they can deliver care they aspire to.
Depressed nurse
Picture: iStock

The NHS Staff Survey 2017 found that 38% of health service workers in England report having had work-related stress over the past 12 months, up 1.6% on the previous year.

The poll of over 400,000 staff also shows a falling proportion of staff happy with the care they can provide, with 66.8% of staff saying they 'agree' or 'strongly agree' that they are able to deliver the care they aspire to – down from 68.2% in 2016.

Indicators of pressure nurses are under

Overall findings by specific staff groups are to be released at the end of the month, but individual trust results show the pressures facing nurses.

At Barts Health NHS Trust in London, the largest trust in England, the findings for acute adult nurses include:

  • Almost half (49%) of the 1,612 acute adult nurses who responded admitted to feeling unwell due to work-related stress in the past year.
  • More than half (51%) claimed they had attended work in the past three months despite feeling unwell because they felt pressured to by colleagues, managers or themselves.
  • A total of 85% reported regularly working extra hours.

At South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust, 37 of 85 community/district nurses reported being unwell due to stress in the same period, while 64% admitted feeling pressured to work in the past three months despite being unwell.

Increase in staff responses

The survey was carried out from September to December 2017 with more than 485,000 staff responses collected – around one third of the total workforce – an increase of 64,000 on 2016.

Other areas of concern highlighted by the research include 15% of staff reporting that they experienced physical violence from patients, relatives or members of the public.

The number satisfied with their pay fell to 31%, down 6% on 2016, while around 8% of staff say they have experienced discrimination from colleagues. The poll also found 58% of staff report working unpaid hours.

'Heading in the wrong direction'

RCN general secretary Janet Davies, said: ‘These figures bear out the warnings from nurses on the NHS front line – patient care standards are heading in the wrong direction and nursing staff will not accept it.

‘More than half of NHS staff report working unpaid overtime every single week.

‘Ministers must stop treating the goodwill and dedication of NHS staff as a replacement for adequate funding and proper workforce planning.’

NHS Employers chief executive Danny Mortimer added: ‘Employers in the NHS have been anticipating worsening results from this most recent survey and sadly their concerns have been reflected in the outcome.

‘The country needs to take these challenging results seriously. We cannot expect staff to absorb additional work pressures year-on-year without it having an adverse effect on their experience of work.

‘A long-term solution to sustainable investment in the NHS – and other vital public services – is clearly required.’

NHS England director of patient experience Neil Churchill said: ‘Staff are going above and beyond to deliver the best care under pressure and these results show that staff appreciate the efforts of managers to listen, support and act on staff concerns.’

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