NHS survey finds standard of patient care has fallen while more staff looking to leave their jobs

The standard of patient care in the NHS has fallen, staff have said in a huge survey, with more workers now unhappy and wanting to leave their jobs.

The NHS Staff Survey for England, which is one of the largest workforce surveys in the world, received responses from 636,348 staff through data-gathering at the end of 2022.

The results showed that more staff are feeling under pressure, do not feel they have enough time to do their job properly and are worried about standards of patient care.

Some 62.9% were happy with the standard of care provided by their organisation in 2022, down from 67.8% the previous year, 74.2% in 2020 and 71.5% in 2019.

The greatest decline was seen in the proportion of staff agreeing that if a friend or relative needed treatment, they would be happy with the standard of care provided by their workplace.

The report said some 62.9% agreed with this, “which is down 4.8 percentage points, and is now 11.3 percentage points lower than in 2020”.

While all types of NHS trust have seen a decline on this measure, it is most marked in ambulance trusts, down more than 18 percentage points since 2020.

Four in 10 ambulance workers also told the survey they have seen errors or near misses over the last year that harmed, or could harm, patients or staff, with the figure being 33.5% across the entire NHS.

Furthermore, around half of ambulance staff said they have felt burnt out because of their work in the past year, while 42% said they often think about leaving their organisation (compared with 32.3% across the entire NHS).

Of all workers, 23.7% said they will probably look for a job at a new organisation in the next 12 months, up from 19.7% in 2020, while 17.3% said that they will leave their organisation as soon as they can find another job, up from 16.6% in 2021.

Among ambulance staff, the percentage planning to leave as soon as they can find another job has increased by 7.2 percentage points since 2020 and now stands at 24%.

The survey also saw a drop in the percentage of staff feeling their role makes a difference to patients, standing at 86.9%, down from 87.4% the previous year.

There was also a slight decline in the proportion feeling their organisation saw the care of patients and service users as their top priority, and a decline in those thinking their organisation acts on the concerns raised by patients.

Some four in 10 of all NHS staff said their work frustrates them, while 34% said they feel burnt out.

Only 25.6% of staff were satisfied with their level of pay, down from 32.6% the previous year, and 26.4% felt there were enough staff for them to do their job properly, down from 27.1% the previous year.

Just over one in 10 staff have experienced at least one incident of harassment, bullying or abuse in the last 12 months by managers, and almost one in five by other colleagues.

Danny Mortimer (pictured), chief executive of NHS Employers, part of the NHS Confederation, said: “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.

“At the same time the hard work of team leaders and managers is borne out by the results that more staff say that they feel listened to by their line managers, that they take effective action to help with any problems and that they take a positive interest in their health and wellbeing.

“However, we must not shy away from the fact that so many of our people tell us and the Government that they cannot work to the best of their abilities.

“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.”

Mr Mortimer called for the publication of the NHS workforce plan on how gaps will be filled.

Sally Warren, director of policy at The King’s Fund, said the findings show “staff are being stretched to breaking point”, with “staff feeling undervalued, under huge pressure and questioning their roles in the NHS”.

She added: “Bringing down the NHS waiting list is one of the Prime Minister’s five key priorities, but it will not be possible to tackle the growing backlog of care if NHS staff continue to work in overstretched teams and report that work makes them feel unwell.

“Looking after staff in the NHS should be the Prime Minister’s first priority if he wants to reduce waiting lists and waiting times.”

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