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Thousands more nurses affected by work-related stress in 2020, poll shows

NHS staff survey results show why action on pay and staff retention is urgent, says RCN
Picture shows a nurse wearing a mask holding a hand to her brow and appearing tired

NHS staff survey results shows why action on pay and staff retention is urgent, says RCN

Thousands more nurses were affected by work-related stress in 2020, the year the COVID-19 pandemic hit, than in the previous year, according to an NHS staff survey.

The results prompted RCN general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair to urge the government to act now to retain staff, with pay dissatisfaction and staffing levels also highlighted as areas of concern.

Survey results show why 1% pay recommendation is disrespectful

Of the 154,000 nurses and midwives who responded to the survey, nearly half (49%) said they had felt unwell because of

NHS staff survey results shows why action on pay and staff retention is urgent, says RCN

Picture shows a nurse wearing a mask holding a hand to her brow and appearing tired
Picture: iStock

Thousands more nurses were affected by work-related stress in 2020, the year the COVID-19 pandemic hit, than in the previous year, according to an NHS staff survey.

The results prompted RCN general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair to urge the government to act now to retain staff, with pay dissatisfaction and staffing levels also highlighted as areas of concern.

Survey results ‘show why 1% pay recommendation is disrespectful’

Of the 154,000 nurses and midwives who responded to the survey, nearly half (49%) said they had felt unwell because of work-related stress, up from 44% a year earlier.

The annual survey, which was carried out between September and December 2020, went out to more than 1.2 million staff across 280 NHS organisations in England and drew 595,270 responses overall.

Professor Kinnair said the government should heed the warning signs in the survey. ‘This survey of those who have been at the heart of the response to the pandemic should act as a stark reminder to ministers of why a 1% pay rise is so disrespectful after the past year,’ she said.

‘Unless ministers recognise the warning signals of those who are thinking of leaving and nearly half of those surveyed who felt unwell as a result of work-related stress, it makes it even harder for the NHS to return to normal.’

Despite the high levels of reported stress, there were positives, with results suggesting that respondents had an overall enthusiasm for the work, the vast majority want to continue in healthcare and most would recommend their organisation as a good place to work.

NHS staff survey 2020: what nurses said

  • 75,738 nurses and midwives (49%) reported feeling unwell due to work-related stress in the previous 12 months, compared with 64,999 (44%) in 2019
  • 104,274 (68%) were dissatisfied with pay in 2020, compared with 93,905 (64%) in 2019
  • 102,791 (67%) reported staff shortages at their workplace, compared with 105,670 (72%) in 2019
  • 99,726 (65%) reported working unpaid hours, compared with 98,049 (68%) in 2019
  • 69,745 (45%) reported working on a COVID-19 ward during 2020

Staff taking part in the survey were not required to answer all questions, meaning some results are given as an average.

Pledge to help staff recover from pandemic

Minister for care Helen Whately said the government is working to support staff.

‘Areas do remain where we need to do more,’ she said. ‘We will help staff recover from this pandemic, with investments in mental health support and professional development, along with our commitment to recruiting more doctors, nurses and health support workers so our NHS has the staff it needs.’


Find out more

NHS Staff Survey Results


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