Female medical professional presenting to colleagues in a meeting

NHS Providers calls for long-term support for NHS staff

In their recently-published 2020 NHS Staff Survey, NHS England and NHS Improvement found despite some positive results there were still a large proportion of staff who were feeling under pressure in their roles.

As part of the study, 61.6% of staff surveyed suggested that they did not feel that there was enough staff at their organisations, while three quarters said they still regularly faced unrealistic time pressures in their jobs.

Despite 74.4% of respondents suggesting the latter, this was still a decrease from 77.1% recorded last year.

The 2020 NHS Staff Survey also showed an increasing proportion of staff, some 66.8%, would recommend their organisation as a place to work, up 3.5% from 2019.

Similarly, there was a 6% increase in staff feeling that their organisation was well-staffed, allowing them to do their jobs thoroughly - though this figure still only represented 38.4% of respondents.

With the pressures of the pandemic and a treatment backlog, staff recruitment, retention and happiness are all going to be important factors in ensuring the continued and uninterrupted delivery of care.

Responding to the survey results, Deputy Chief Executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, said: “The last year has been the toughest in the NHS' history and we have to pay tribute to how staff have time and time again stepped up and delivered.

"We're pleased to see that there have been improvements in the number of staff recommending their organisations as a good place to work and the ongoing commitment by trusts to staff health and wellbeing is clearly an important factor.

"The significant increase in staff feeling their organisations are well-staffed can in part be attributed to the huge amount of work that has been carried out by trusts to provide flexible working and deployment of additional staff to respond to the pandemic. National funding to sustain this much needed flexibility remains important in the long term.

"But it is not surprising that the last year has taken a major toll on the mental and physical health of staff and more staff have reported that they have been unwell as a result of a stress-related illness. This is why trusts are continuing to put staff health and wellbeing front and centre of their priorities.

"Much more needs to be done to improve the experience of Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff which is consistently worse than their white colleagues. Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff have faced a greater exposure to Covid-19 this year, with 47% of Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff working on Covid-19 wards during 2020, as opposed to 31% of white staff. Tragically, many have died through working on the frontline. We cannot – and should not – ignore the fact that on a day- to-day basis, our colleagues from ethnic minority backgrounds face considerably worse experiences in the NHS and face more obstacles as they seek to make progress in their careers.

"It is also a stark reality that staff working within the NHS feel they have unsustainable workloads and burnout is a constant concern.  In our survey of trust leaders in October 2020, 99% expressed concern over staff burnout and the survey findings today show that nearly two-thirds of staff do not feel there are enough staff at their organisations and three-quarters of staff in the NHS still regularly face unrealistic time pressures in their jobs. More than half of staff are working additional unpaid hours. 

"In a week in which the debate over NHS pay has dominated, today’s survey shows a fall in the number staff who feel they are well paid. This further underlines the need for the government to confirm meaningful real-terms pay rises for staff in the coming months.

"The NHS people plan, released last year, has provided a useful guide for trusts and other employers in the NHS as they seek to ensure their organisations remain a great place to work.  But it is clear that more support is needed to create genuine, lasting improvements for staff as we ease out of this pandemic.  This must be underpinned by a fully costed plan, funded by the government, to deliver the workforce we need for the future of the NHS."

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