NHS staff survey reveals a ‘workforce in crisis’, BMA claims

According to the British Medical Association (BMA), the latest NHS staff survey shows that the service’s workforce is ‘in crisis’

While there are genuine improvements in several areas, the core findings of the NHS staff survey reveal a workforce in crisis.

Of particular concern are the figures on bullying and harassment and this is evidence of the pressure being felt by frontline staff and how these issues impact directly on workforce morale, staff wellbeing and, thus, patient care.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA chair of council, said: “The findings of the 2018 NHS Staff Survey show that doctors and other health care professionals across England are working in a system under extreme pressure due to chronic underfunding, workforce shortages and rising patient demand.

“As a result, they are struggling daily to sustain high standards of patient care.

“Work related issues such as bullying, harassment and burn out caused by impossible workloads are damaging the physical and mental health of doctors. This then directly affects the quality of care they can give patients.

“Government and employers not only have a clear duty of care to the medical workforce but also to patients and so must act urgently and decisively to tackle these issues by addressing their root causes.”

The three per cent decline in staff feeling that their organisation takes positive action on health and wellbeing is worrying. Our ongoing health and wellbeing work finds that only 27% of doctors were confident that if their physical or mental health was suffering due to work, their employer would provide help and support.

That almost 40% of NHS staff feel unwell because of work-related stress – with last year being the worst in five years – means employers need to both give their staff better access to appropriate support services and actively promote a no-blame culture.

The toll on physicians’ physical health is also mounting, with a two per cent increase in staff confirming they’re experiencing musculoskeletal problems. The BMA believes that better provision and funding of occupational health services will help reduce the amount of time staff spend off work.

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Through our bullying and harassment project we have been working to raise awareness of the prevalence and toxic effects of such behaviour in the NHS and to make clear recommendations on what we think should be done.

The decline in numbers of NHS staff feeling satisfied with the quality of care they give to patients is another worrying trend while the increase in staff witnessing errors, near misses or incidents echoes our own survey results which found that doctors are worried about making mistakes and that this is linked to work pressures.

Increasing numbers of doctors and consultants are citing concerns about health and wellbeing as being a major driver for taking in breaks in training, for working shorter hours or in deciding to leave the professional entirely.

Properly supporting doctors and the wider NHS workforce by placing staff health and wellbeing at the centre of the NHS benefits patients, staff and the whole NHS through better patient outcomes, improved staff morale and reduced staff turnover and sickness absence.

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