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Nearly 40% of NHS staff feel unwell due to work-related stress, survey reveals


By Valeria Fiore
Reporter
27 February 2019

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The latest figures from the NHS Staff Survey 2018 show people working in the NHS feel unwell as a result of work-related stress, with the percentage representing the worst figure in the last five years.

Over 490,000 NHS employees in England took part in the survey and results – published yesterday – show that 39.8% reported feeling unwell as a result of stress in the last 12 months.

According to NHS England, the figure has been declining since 2016, when it was 36.8%. The 2018 figure, which is 39.8%, is the highest recorded for this question in the last five years.

Labour MP Jonathan Ashworth called the figure ‘appalling’ while think tank The King’s Fund said it is ‘deeply worrying’ stress levels have reached the highest percentage in the last five years.

Work-related issues

The NHS Staff Survey said: ‘39.8% reported feeling unwell as a result of work related stress in the last 12 months. This measure has been in decline since 2016 (36.8%), with 2018 being the worst result in the last five years.’

The survey asked NHS employees what their most likely destination would be career wise, if they leave their current role. It found that ‘7.5% would move to a job outside healthcare and 4.3% would want to move to a job in healthcare, but outside the NHS’.

However, the survey also found that 68.4% takes a positive interest in their health and well-being, which is a long-term improvement since 2015, when the figure was 65.8%.

A lower percentage of staff is experiencing physical violence from patients, relatives or members of the public, down from 15.4% last year to 14.5%.

This comes after health and social care secretary Matt Hancock announced measures in October 2018 – which included a new partnership between NHS England and the police – to better protect NHS staff against violence.

Sector reaction

Responding to the NHS Staff Survey 2018, NHS Providers deputy chief executive of Saffron Cordery said:  ‘It is clear that rota gaps and staff shortages are piling pressure onto existing staff.

‘More staff are reporting that their health and wellbeing has been impacted by work-related stress while satisfaction with the quality of work and care they can provide has fallen.’

Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary, responding to the 2018 NHS Staff Survey, said: ‘Years of desperate underfunding, cuts, fragmentation and staff shortages have placed huge pressures on NHS staff pushing many to feel burnt out and exhausted.

‘It’s frankly appalling that nearly 40 per cent of NHS staff report feeling unwell as a result of work related stress, alongside the worst levels of health and wellbeing in the last five years. What’s more satisfaction in the quality of care staff feel they can provide is falling while a fifth of staff are considering looking for a new job.’

Health Education England has recently called for the establishment of a new board-level role, the workforce wellbeing guardian, to promote the mental health wellbeing of NHS staff.

The King’s Fund director of leadership and organisational development Suzie Bailey said:

‘The service needs to do everything it can to retain staff, so it is deeply worrying that stress levels have hit a five-year high, with 40% reporting work-related stress within the last 12 months.’

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