One in three employees in NHS trusts in England often think about leaving their job, according to the NHS staff survey 2022 which has found overall morale has declined for a second consecutive year.
The number of NHS trust employees who said they regularly think about leaving rose to 32.3% last year, up from 31.2% in 2021. At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, in 2020, this proportion was 26.6%,
Staff in ambulance trusts (42.9%) and community trusts (27.1%) were the most likely to think about leaving the health service.
Nearly a quarter (23.7%) said they would probably look for a new job in the next 12 months, with nurses and healthcare assistants reporting the most notable increase since the pandemic (2022: 21.5%, 2020: 15.9%).
NHS wellbeing and staffing
Just 25.6% were satisfied with their level of pay, down from 32.6% in 2021. Satisfaction with pay was lowest among nursing and healthcare assistants (13.3%) and ambulance staff (15.8%) but there has been a continued downward trend in all occupation groups.
The survey, carried out between September and December, asked employees in England about their experiences in relation to the seven elements of its “people promise”: we are passionate and inclusive, we are recognised and rewarded, we each have a voice that counts, we are safe and healthy, we are always learning, we work flexibly, and we are a team. Questions around staff morale and engagement were also included.
The overall morale score declined for the second year in a row to 5.7 out of 10. The score has hovered around the 6 out of 10 mark for the past five years.
The work pressure score of 5 declined to its worse position in five years, due to fewer employees feeling there were enough staff to do their jobs properly and a decrease in the number of people stating there were adequate materials, supplies and equipment.
NHS leaders called on the government to develop a workforce plan to detail how it plans to fill staffing gaps to improve overall satisfaction in the health service.
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” – Danny Mortimer, NHS Employers
NHS Employers chief executive Danny Mortimer 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.
“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.”
People were also working while unwell. More than half (56.6%) came into work in the three months leading up to the survey, despite not feeling well enough to perform their duties. This figure has barely changed since 2018.
The burnout score (4.9) has edged up slightly. Staff in clinical roles were more likely to report burnout, and around half of staff in ambulance (operational) roles claimed to have felt burnt out because of their work in 2022.
Patricia Marquis, the Royal College of Nursing’s director for England, expressed concern over the pressures facing nursing staff. She said: “Chronic staff shortages create stress and suffering for everyone in health care – day after day, week after week – it is patients that ultimately feel the impact of these compounding pressures.
“These findings lay bare not only the intensifying staffing crisis in our NHS, but the devastation that is waiting in the wings if action is not taken quickly.”
However, there were some signs of improvement. Although 44.8% said they felt unwell as a result of work-related stress in the 12 months before the survey, this was a slight improvement on the percentage who said the same in 2021 (46.9%).
Work-related stress showed signs of declining across most major staff groups, with the exception of medical and dental staff. It is most prevalent among staff working in ambulance trusts, despite an improvement this year (55.9%, down from
58.0% in 2021), while improvements in stress levels were seen among paramedics (64.4%, down from a peak of 66.9% in 2021) and midwives (62.8%, down from 66.3% in 2021).
There was an improvement in staff saying their immediate manager was interested in listening to them when they describe challenges (70.6%, up from 69.5% a year earlier), while staff felt more involved in deciding on changes that affect their work area or team (50.2%) and able to make improvements happen (54.3%).
Respondents were also positive about learning and career development opportunities, while there was an improvement in the percentage of people stating that their organisation was committed to helping them balance their work and home lives, although this score remains below half (45.7%).