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New survey reveals alarming trends in NHS staff morale and retention

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14 per cent NHS Staff actively applying for non-NHS positions due to “exhaustion”, “burnout” and “lack of desired pay”

A recent survey report conducted by the University of Bath Institute for Policy Research (IPR) has unveiled concerning statistics regarding the morale and retention of frontline staff, painting a bleak picture of the current state of the healthcare system.

The report, titled Should I stay or should I go? Monitoring influences on NHS staff retention in the post-COVID-19 world highlights a significant exodus of staff seeking opportunities outside the NHS, citing reasons such as psychological stress, workload, staff shortages, and notably, inadequate pay.

Between March 2023 and June 2023, nearly half of frontline NHS staff (47 per cent) explored job listings outside the NHS, with 14 per cent actively applying for non-NHS positions.

The primary motivation for seeking alternative employment was the desire for higher pay, with 23 per cent of applicants specifically seeking supplementary paid work in addition to their NHS roles.

The survey also revealed a troubling rise in symptoms of burnout among NHS staff, with half reporting feeling ‘very tired or drained’ most days.

Intrinsic job satisfaction and personal commitment to the NHS have steadily declined since 2020, while confidence in the improvement of working conditions remains low.

Furthermore, the report highlights a staggering decline in staff willingness to recommend NHS employment to others, with only a quarter of nurses endorsing the idea.

Testimonies from frontline workers underscore the severity of the situation, with many describing feelings of emotional exhaustion and despair.

Lead researcher Dr. Andrew Weyman expressed deep concern over the findings, emphasizing the urgent need for action to address issues such as pay, staffing levels, workload, and government recognition.

Staff identified these factors as top priorities for improving retention rates within the NHS.

In response Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, a part of the NHS Confederation, emphasized the critical role of NHS staff in delivering consistent care to patients and communities.

He acknowledged the stress and burnout experienced by staff, particularly in the aftermath of the pandemic, amidst continuous demands for care and noted a positive trend in the most recent NHS staff survey, indicating an overall improvement in staff experience, although disparities persist, notably among BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) staff.

“Research like this, incorporating insights from frontline workers, is invaluable in shaping future policy and strategy decisions,” Mortimer remarked.

NHS Employers, he affirmed, is committed to supporting employers in these areas, aligning efforts with the NHS People Promise and the Long Term Workforce Plan unveiled the previous year.

Furthermore, UNISON’s Helga Pile addressed the University of Bath’s findings, noting NHS workers’ inclination towards non-healthcare jobs due to low wages.

“Supermarkets are paying higher rates and can offer staff discounts and much less stressful jobs.”

She urged for prompt pay raises to retain staff, stating proper NHS investment is crucial to relieve pressure and maintain quality patient care.

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