Three in four NHS workers ‘have experienced mental health issues in the last year’

By Staff 8 Min Read

NHS Charities Together is now calling on the public to ensure hard working healthcare workers are looked after in the same way they look after the general public

More than three in four NHS workers have experienced poor mental health in the last year, according to a survey.

NHS Charities Together is now calling on the public to ensure healthcare workers are looked after in the same way they look after the public. Experts also warned NHS staff “cannot run on empty” and that persistent pressure on the health service is taking an “enormous toll”.

The survey of 1,078 NHS staff, conducted by YouGov for NHS Charities Together a network of more than 200 NHS charities across the UK, found 76% had experienced mental health issues in the last year. Some 52% had struggled with anxiety, along with 51% who had had low mood, and 42% who said they had experienced exhaustion.

Ellie Orton, chief executive of NHS Charities Together, said: “Staff working within the NHS do a hugely challenging job every day, often dealing with traumatic events most of us would never encounter. The majority of NHS staff love doing the job they do, and both NHS staff and the general public feel proud of our NHS.

“But the nature of the work can have a detrimental impact on their mental health, and stigma can prevent them talking about it. Many NHS Trusts are already doing what they can to prioritise the mental health and wellbeing of our NHS staff, but it doesn’t go far enough. We will continue to work closely with NHS England and across the UK to ensure the additional support we provide for NHS staff has the most impact.”

The poll was conducted to coincide with the launch of Support Goes Both Ways, a new campaign by NHS Charities Together which urges the public to support the NHS and its workers. It comes as separate survey of 2,068 adults, also carried out by YouGov, revealed 78% of people agree the NHS is one of the UK’s most-loved institutions.

Ms Orton said that while her organisation already funds support for staff, such as counselling and helplines, the campaign will aim to “raise awareness that while those who work for the NHS have a duty to care and protect us all, we all have a responsibility to make sure those who work for the NHS are looked after too”.

Former doctor and author Adam Kay, whose bestselling book This Is Going To Hurt was adapted for television, is backing Support Goes Both Ways. He said the survey results from NHS staff “sadly come as no surprise at all”. “I know from my own experience just how hard NHS staff work, day-in, day-out, and the mental toll that routinely takes,” Mr Kay added.

“We are uniquely privileged to have the NHS and should be proud of the wonderful people who sacrifice so much and go so far beyond the call of duty to look after us when we need it.” Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive at NHS Providers, said the “worrying” findings from NHS Charities Together is further evidence “that persistent pressure on the NHS is taking an enormous toll on staff”.

“Despite significant challenges, staff remain dedicated to delivering high-quality care to patients,” he added. “But hard-working healthcare professionals cannot run on empty. Trust leaders are doing all they can to support their teams’ mental health and wellbeing, but national support is also needed.

“The recent cuts to central funding for NHS staff wellbeing hubs was a huge blow at a time when investment in these services is more vital than ever. With over 111,000 workforce vacancies in the NHS, it’s clear that urgent action must be taken to retain and develop existing staff. A healthy workforce is key to a healthy NHS that can deliver for its patients both now and in the future.”

An NHS England spokesperson said: “Staff wellbeing is a really important part of the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan and there is a range of mental health support for staff including access to coaching, wellbeing resources, and the option of flexible working.

“As this report acknowledges the majority of staff surveyed are proud to work for the NHS and want to stay, but with unprecedented levels of demand on services in recent years, we know there is more to do to ensure everyone working in the NHS has a positive experience which is why we’re also taking action to offer more choice and flexibility than ever before, while supporting the introduction of health and wellbeing champions across the NHS and strengthening occupational health services to support staff with their mental health.”

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