2018 NHS staff survey

Stress in the NHS is at its highest for five years, the 2018 Staff Survey has found. A total 39.8% of staff said they were feeling unwell as a result of work-related stress – which is one of the headlines of this valuable insight into the state of the NHS that will make worrying reading

The annual NHS Staff Survey is the biggest of its type in the UK – and perhaps the world – aiming to gather together the thoughts and feelings of over a million staff from 300 NHS organisations, including 230 trusts. An impressive 46% of those invited to take part did so, amounting to just under half a million responses.

While the results cover secondary care providers only, there are some recurrent themes of underfunding, overwork and stress that will be all too familiar to those in GP surgeries up and down the UK.

Key themes

The NHS has highlighted some key themes from the report:

  • 3% of staff were satisfied with their salaries, an increase from 2017 (but still below the 2016 figure).
  • 1% of staff said they were satisfied with the extent to which their organisation values their work, up 3% from 2017.
  • 4% of staff said they were satisfied with the recognition they get for good work – a 4% rise when compared to the previous year.

There was an overall decline in staff health and wellbeing, as indicated by a lower theme score of 5.9 (compared to 6.0 in 2017).

The headline stats show a small, but noticeable, improvement in some perceptions of the NHS – but dig a little deeper and the findings are more concerning.

  • A small majority of staff (51%) are considering leaving their current role.
  • Almost a quarter (21%) indicate that they want to leave the NHS.
  • Only 28.6% of staff feel their organisation definitely takes positive action on health and wellbeing – a fall of 3% in a year.
  • 6% experienced musculoskeletal problems as a result of work activities in the last year.
  • 1% of BME employees don’t believe their organisation provides equal opportunities.
  • Just 28.6% feel their trust takes positive action on health and wellbeing – a fall of 3%.
  • 8% of staff reported that they had become unwell as a result of workplace stress.
  • 5% of staff had ignored NHS advice and reported for work while ill.
  • 8% of NHS staff complete unpaid overtime every week.

Alarming downturn?

Speaking to The Guardian, Professor John Appleby, the chief economist at the Nuffield Trust think tank, said: “After years of holding up against all the odds, today’s figures confirm an alarming downturn in the wellbeing of hardworking NHS staff. 

After years of holding up against all the odds, today’s figures confirm an alarming downturn in the wellbeing of hardworking NHS staff. 

“It’s not just a matter for staff themselves but will have a knock-on effect on patients, too,” he commented in relation to the fact that staff are working while sick.

Writing in the HSJ Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers and deputy chief executive of the NHS Confederation, struck a more positive tone. “The latest results of the NHS Staff Survey, therefore, present some reasons to be hopeful – staff engagement, satisfaction with pay and flexible working, and a feeling of being recognised and valued have all improved.” He also highlights challenges that remain, including discrimination and bullying.

Official spokesperson Neil Churchill, director of patient experience at NHS England, said: “NHS staff regularly ‘go the extra mile’ for their patients and colleagues to deliver the best possible care, but it is equally important that local NHS trusts and foundation trusts are doing all they can to support our fantastic staff.”

Recognising the challenges in the health service – and the raised expectations of the Long Term Plan – he is urging action. “We would expect all trusts to listen to the results from their staff survey and take appropriate action,” he says.

You can view the full 2018 NHS Staff Survey results here.

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