Survey shows decline in NHS staff morale and engagement

THE percentage of NHS staff in England who are happy with the standard of care provided by their organisation has declined more than 6 points from 2020 to 67.8 per cent, according to the NHS Staff Survey 2021.

Declines were seen in all trust types but ambulance trusts saw the greatest drop from 75.0 per cent in 2020 to 62.9 per cent in 2021.

The NHS Confederation says the findings highlight the range of pressures on the NHS and a need for action to address these challenges.

The percentage of staff recommending the NHS as a place to work fell from 67 to 60 per cent, and 31 per cent of staff said that they are considering leaving the NHS, which is up from 26 per cent in 2020.

The survey, in which 648,594 staff responded, focused on seven elements as set out in the NHS People Promise. These were scored on a 10-point scale by combining answers to questions grouped under the themes. The results were:

  1. We are compassionate and inclusive: 7.2
  2. We are recognised and rewarded: 5.9
  3. We each have a voice that counts: 6.7
  4. We are safe and healthy: 6
  5. We are always learning: 5.3
  6. We work flexibly: 6
  7. We are a team: 6.6.

Two additional themes were staff engagement and morale, which both worsened in 2021. Morale fell from 6.1 to 5.8 and staff engagement from 7.0 to 6.8.

Reported health and wellbeing among NHS staff are also areas of concern. Nearly half of staff (46.8 per cent) have felt unwell as a result of work-related stress in the last 12 months (a figure that has increased by 8 per cent over four consecutive years) and 54.5 per cent of staff reported going into work in the last three months despite not feeling well enough to perform their duties.

Responding to the results, Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “The overall picture does not come as a surprise given the unprecedented pressure placed on the NHS and its staff working through a pandemic with very little respite for over two years.

“The fall in staff morale is a real cause for concern, in particular in the numbers of staff who are considering leaving the workforce which has risen to just under a third (31 per cent) since last year. There has also been a noticeable drop in the number of staff recommending the NHS as a place to work.

“NHS leaders know only too well the relentless demand being placed on their teams due to the staffing vacancies which now stand at 110,000.

“It’s high time for the Government to grasp the opportunity now presented through the Health and Care Bill workforce amendment and commit to setting out full and transparent staffing requirements for the NHS at regular intervals. Not doing so is a lost opportunity and will only serve to heighten staff shortages and jeopardise the inroads the health service can make into driving down patient waiting lists.”

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