Nurses walking through hospital corridor

Less staff happy with pay and more looking to leave, NHS survey shows

Only a quarter of the healthcare workforce are satisfied with their pay, according to a poll of more than 600,000 NHS staff.

The statistic comes from 2022’s NHS staff survey, in which more than 260 health service organisations took part, including all 215 of England’s NHS trusts – the findings were coordinated by the independent charity Picker, who compiled the responses of 612,129 staff between the September and November of last year.

Along with the amount of staff satisfied with their level of pay dropping seven percentage points from last year to 25.6%, the survey also indicated a number of other worrying things – especially when put against the current backdrop of industrial action, vacancies and backlog that is plaguing the health sector at the moment.

17.3% of respondents said they will leave their organisation as soon as they can find another job, a 3.3 percentage point increase from 2020; 23.7% indicated they will probably look for a job in a new place within the next 12 months, a four percentage point increase from 2020; whilst 32.3% reported that they often think about leaving the NHS, which is a 5.7 percentage point increase from the start of the decade.

This news comes as the health service continues to be hamstrung by more than 120,000 vacancies and ongoing disputes around remuneration and patient safety.

NHS Employers Chief Executive, Danny Mortimer, responded to the survey by saying: “It is no surprise given that we have now witnessed several months of industrial action by NHS staff that those same staff, who have worked through extraordinary challenges over the past few years, have expressed their feelings of deep frustration in these responses.

“It is of course concerning to see that 17% of staff considering leaving for another job will do so as soon as they find one and that, despite the continuing efforts of health leaders to recruit and retain employees, the numbers of those willing to recommend the NHS as an employer has also dropped. This is reinforced by the responses to staff satisfaction on pay.”

The workforce issues could perhaps be explained by the fact that only 26.4% of staff reported having enough colleagues at their organisation to be able to do their job properly – an 11.9 percentage point decrease from 2020.

55.6% of staff also said they have adequate materials, supplies and equipment to do their job – a 4.7% reduction from 2020.

Mortimer continued: “With 124,000 vacant posts, including over 40,000 vacancies in nursing, it is also not unexpected that there has also been a fall in the number of staff who say there are enough of them to do their jobs properly.

“NHS leaders are urgently calling for the Government to invest in a long promised and much overdue workforce plan and to detail how they will fill these gaps.”

Another of the most concerning statistics would be how only 57.4% of survey respondents would recommend their organisation as a place to work, which is 9.4% lower than 2020 – this is coupled with only 62.9% saying they would be happy with the standard of care their organisation is providing, if a friend or relative needed treatment, down from 74.2% in 2020.

Chief Executive of NHS Providers, Sir Julian Hartley, said health leaders understand that they’ve got a “mountain to climb” to boost staff morale and satisfaction, but they can’t battle the challenge alone.

"In the short-term, we need the government to set out a fully costed and funded long-term workforce plan, which sets out how many staff will be needed to keep pace with demand,” he said. “And we need constructive talks between the Government and all unions about pay if we are to avert further strike action."

Such a plan will also be needed to curb the ongoing workforce exhaustion that is affecting services up and down the country – 37.4% of respondents said they often or always find their work emotionally exhausting whilst 34% said they feel burnt out because of their job.

To read all the outcomes from the NHS staff survey, click here.

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NHE May/June 2024

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