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NHS trusts say staff are already experiencing burnout before winter pressures

COVID-19 first wave has left many staff depleted, trust leaders tell survey
Picture shows a female medic holding her hands to her head in a gesture expressing stress or exhaustion

COVID-19 first wave has left many staff depleted, trust leaders tell survey

Hospital bosses in England are worried about staff burnout from the first wave of coronavirus as the winter months approach, a survey by NHS Providers shows.

The body representing NHS trust leaders conducted the survey in August among 217 NHS trusts and foundation trusts in England. A total of 140 trusts replied a 65% response rate with 199 chairs and executive directors completing the survey.

Pressure on health staff threatening to push them beyond limits

NHS Providers chief executive

Almost all 197 out of 199 (99%) said they were either extremely or moderately concerned about the current level of burnout across the workforce.

NHS Providers chief executive

COVID-19 first wave has left many staff depleted, trust leaders tell survey

Picture shows a female medic holding her hands to her head in a gesture expressing stress or exhaustion
Picture: iStock

Hospital bosses in England are worried about staff burnout from the first wave of coronavirus as the winter months approach, a survey by NHS Providers shows.

The body representing NHS trust leaders conducted the survey in August among 217 NHS trusts and foundation trusts in England. A total of 140 trusts replied – a 65% response rate – with 199 chairs and executive directors completing the survey.

Pressure on health staff ‘threatening to push them beyond limits’

Picture of NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson
NHS Providers chief executive

Almost all – 197 out of 199 (99%) – said they were either extremely or moderately concerned about the current level of burnout across the workforce.

NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said there had been ‘no let-up in the pressure’ during the pandemic, which followed a difficult winter for staff.

‘And while the response to the spring surge in COVID-19 cases showed the NHS at its best, the pressures took their toll on staff who gave so much,’ he said. ‘The worry is that the sustained physical, psychological and emotional pressure on health staff is threatening to push them beyond their limits of endurance.

One director of nursing told NHS Providers that staff had been working long hours in ‘high-stress circumstances for quite some time’. Another chief executive said: ‘We have a perfect storm on the horizon – depleted staff, depleted capacity, increasing workload.’

‘Concerns about staffing levels are only going up’

Sixty-eight trust leaders (34%) said they were extremely concerned about the current level of burnout in their workforce.

More than half of the respondents – 111 (56%) – said they were extremely concerned about the impact of seasonal pressures over winter on their trust and local area.

Commenting on the survey’s findings, RCN general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said: ‘While levels of stress show little sign of decreasing, concerns about staffing levels are only going up.’ Professor Kinnair called for the government to deliver more nursing staff and introduce a pay rise of 12.5% to help combat poor staffing issues.

The Department of Health and Social Care said that by the end of the current Westminster parliament, due in 2024, there will be 50,000 more nurses.


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The state of the NHS provider sector (NHS Providers)


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