Overworked doctors and nurses ‘terrified of making a mistake’

Yesterday parliament held a meeting to discuss workforce recruitment, training and retention in health and social care.

According to Nuffield Trust, one in nine NHS staff left active service in the year to September 2021. This included one in ten nurses and one in 18 consultants.

Whilst staffing level trackers have revealed a general decrease in the number of leavers over the years, figures are now starting to increase to pre-pandemic times meaning more staff are choosing to either take a break from NHS healthcare or leave it entirely.

Huge efforts to strengthen the workforce through recruitment and additional training schemes are currently being made but retaining the current staffing cohort is still proving challenging for a variety of reasons.

During the pandemic workload increased across the healthcare sector vastly, something Dr Vishal Sharma, Consultant Cardiologist, Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospital NHS Trust, Chair, BMA Consultants Committee and Chair, BMA Pensions Committee, thinks is a large part of why current staff may choose to leave the industry.

In a meeting held in parliament, Dr Sharma said: “People don’t choose to do extra work, but they feel that if they don’t do it their patients will suffer and they keep doing it and doing it, going the extra mile and then they break”.

Talking about the consequences of being overworked, Dr Sharma added: “Unfortunately, when you’re working under such pressure, and you haven’t got the facilities to do what you’d usually do, you’re terrified of missing something and terrified of making a mistake. You have these thoughts in the back of your mind where you think what if I make a mistake? What if I miss this? What is going to happen to my patient? What is going to happen to me?”

Adding to Dr Sharma’s point, Professor Dame Clare Gerada, Former Medical Director, NHS Practitioner Health and Chair of the charity Doctors in Distress, said: “I’ve had more complaints in the last two years than in the last 40 years [of my career] and even in my seniority, complaints cause such grief and such distress”.

Mental health and the wellbeing of staff plays a large part in workforce retention, Professor Gerada said: “Every single NHS Trust has to take mental health as seriously as they do finance.

“There isn’t one solution but it’s not about Zumba classes or mindfulness or swimming with dolphins, it is much more endemic. You have to treat this as a public health problem, this is something that requires full scale, systematic change”.

Join us on the 7th April for our NHE365: Workforce event where we will be joined by expert panelists to discuss topics such as recruitment, workforce management, retention and the mental wellbeing of staff

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