The brutal reality of working in the NHS today is revealed with 78.5% of NHS workers considering leaving the NHS, according to new research. With most financial advisers having some members of NHS staff as clients, this sentiment may well be something which you are more than familiar with from your client meetings.

The comprehensive survey of 2,500 NHS workers has revealed the tough reality that healthcare professionals are facing due to understaffing, with more than half (55%) of respondents taking days off work due to stress, anxiety, or burnout. 

Key findings from the survey include: 

· 79% of respondents reported experiencing stress, 62% reported anxiety, and 55% reported burnout in the last three years. Only 4.9% of respondents indicated that they had not experienced any of these issues. 


· A majority of NHS workers say patients are experiencing medication errors, delays in procedures and a compromised quality of care. 

· 55% of respondents had needed time off work due to stress, anxiety, or burnout. 25% of respondents had taken a month or more off, 14% had taken a week or more and 17% had taken a few days. 

· A concerning 78.5% of respondents were considering quitting the NHS, while 21.5% reported no such considerations yet 


The heavy price of low pay and understaffing in the NHS is taking its toll, with more than half of NHS workers experiencing burnout. As a result NHS workers say patients are experiencing medication errors, delays in procedures and administering medication, increased waiting times, and a compromised quality of care. Understaffing is leading to increased pressure on healthcare workers, resulting in burnout, exhaustion and mistakes. This burnout is compounding the problem with NHS workers considering leaving the sector altogether. 

The results from this survey underscore the urgent need for improved working conditions and better support systems for NHS workers. In light of these findings, it is critical for the NHS and the wider healthcare sector to address the issues of stress, anxiety, and burnout among staff. Failing to do so could result in the loss of valuable healthcare professionals to other sectors or industries, further impacting the NHS’s ability to provide quality care to patients. 

Nat Whalley, CEO and co-founder of Organise, comments: “NHS workers are exposing a ticking time bomb at the heart of our healthcare system. A staggering 78% of NHS workers are considering jobs outside the NHS, which could result in a severe shortage of healthcare professionals, compromising patient care and the very foundation of our NHS. Thousands of us are demanding better pay, improved working conditions, and comprehensive support systems for our invaluable healthcare professionals. We don’t need empty promises; we need tangible investments in the NHS that allow workers to thrive in their roles, without suffering from stress, anxiety, and burnout. Listen to us, invest in the well-being of our NHS workforce, and ensure the future of our NHS.” 


Here’s how NHS worker, Caroline Murray* (OT and Community Specialist, Band 6) described the situation: “I work in the community and hear horror stories of people’s time in hospital, being left soiled, thirsty or in pain as there aren’t enough staff to see to their needs, especially in single rooms, often not being able to reach a buzzer or falling and staff not knowing for a while as no one is checking in until meals come round. People being sent home so soon they are still very weak and unwell, having to send them back in, they’re terrified to go in. 

Assessments aren’t done as they’re so desperate for beds so many discharges are very badly planned. Putting lots of stress on community staff with lots of very unwell vulnerable patients, there is no care in the community so nurses and therapists support people with care tasks, going in on days off or out of hours. 

In community we have so many patients spread over such a wide rural area we have to prioritise the most vulnerable and poorly ones meaning many are left to struggle and wait too long for Assessments. We have turned from a rehab team to just an emergency response team and spend all of our time sorting out terrible discharges from hospital as discharge to assess was forced on the community team, the therapists in the hospital that previously did discharge planning now unsure of their role. Staff are leaving in droves.

Community used to be a popular job, now we cannot recruit as the job is so stressful and upsetting, we are losing good staff as they are becoming so burnt out and leaving the NHS all together. In the time I was off for stress, 7 staff members left their jobs. We have only been able to replace 2.” 

Jessica Yau*, Governance Midwife, Band 7: “A woman under our care was due to have an elective caesarean for previous big babies/birth injury and trauma and the current one was also scanning large. She attended prior to her planned caesarean in spontaneous labour and requested an emergency caesarean. Due to busyness on the ward, 5 HOURS later, she gave birth vaginally, the baby suffered a shoulder dystocia (life threatening incident where the baby’s shoulder got stuck under the mother’s pubic bone), needed additional manoeuvres to get the baby out and the baby suffered a fractured humerus as a result. How much damage could have been avoided if there were enough stuff and enough space (theatre was continually occupied) to give this woman the caesarean she had asked for. I have a thousand more cases like this as I work in the risk team.” 

Anne Taylor, Band 6 Sister at an NHS Trust said: “I work in a level 3 NICU. We have patients sent to us from other hospitals that have suffered during delivery due to staffing issues. We have drug errors due to lack of time, prescribing errors from tired junior doctors and ANNPs/ inexperienced staff checking drugs together due to staff skill mix constraints. We have non QIS caring for ventilated patients.

“We have QUS nurses caring for more than 1 ventilated patient which is against BAPM guidelines. Every time Care Quality Commission announce they are coming the ward goes crazy- everything is cleaned, extra staff put in place, staff are pre-warned to check this or that policy or initiative. Colleagues come to work sick due to fear of reprimand from the sickness policy.

“We don’t have a 24 hour reception so nurses have to police the phones and doors as well as clean, care for patients, complete mandatory training… the list of tasks is endless. This all impacts patient care. Add to that being short-staffed and the staff on shift who regularly pick up the slack are tired, undervalued, underpaid, overworked and feeling older than their years.”

When asked about the NHS support to help workers struggling with stress, Ben Paget, Staff Nurse at York NHS Trust puts it plainly: “I have always been advised to go to occupational health or use the NHS counselling service. This is all very well but talking alone will not change the fact that tomorrow I am back on an understaffed ward, the cause for my mental health issues.”

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