NHS mental health crisis exposed as third of staff take time off due to ‘burnout’

By Staff 5 Min Read

UNISON, the union which carried out the survey of 12,000 health workers across the UK, said the findings reveal burnout among employees and mean many more could quit the profession altogether.

MORE than a third of NHS employees have had to take time off work with mental health issues in the past year, a new survey has found.

UNISON, the union which carried out the survey of 12,000 health workers across the UK, said the findings reveal burnout among employees and mean many more could quit the profession altogether. Nurses, porters, 999 call handlers and other NHS staff reported panic attacks, high blood pressure, chest pain and headaches – with some also experiencing depression, sleepless nights and flashbacks.

Helga Pile, UNISON head of health said: “Many NHS staff are clearly at their limit. Burnout is a reality in every part of the health service, from hospital wards to ambulance stations. As more staff quit, the pressures increase for those still working in the NHS, and many are struggling to cope.

Of those who took time off off with mental health problems, one in five did not tell their employer the real cause of their absence. The main reason for this was they did not feel their manager or employer would be supportive (45%).

More than one in five (22%) said they did not want their colleagues to know they had mental health issues. Almost a quarter (24%) were able to ask their employer for help with their mental health in the previous 18 months. However, nearly half (48%) of those who took this step to share their issues said they did not feel supported.

The majority of those surveyed said better pay and recognition would make a difference to their wellbeing (89%).

Safer staffing levels (82%), measures to stop bullying and harassment (68%) and a change in work pattern (58%) also scored highly, along with access to a 24-hour counselling service (51%) and to a wellbeing app (49%).

“No one should suffer stress-related issues such as panic attacks and chest pains because of their job,” Ms Pile added. “Employers must do more to recognise the overwhelming pressures on all NHS staff including healthcare assistants, cleaners and paramedics. The range of support available to workers experiencing mental health issues needs to be reviewed too. Managers must also ensure staffing levels are safe and that employees have regular breaks.”

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