As much as 65% of the NHS workforce are 'seriously considering' leaving the health service, analysis by health union Unison has warned.
Unison surveyed 10,589 NHS workers as part of evidence submitted by the union to the NHS Pay Review Body and collated the results in a report titled Undervalued, Overwhelmed. It looked at the impact of workloads and pay restraint on the morale and retention of staff. It found that two thirds of staff were considering leaving the NHS, while 39% said they would leave healthcare altogether. The reasons given for this included low pay, staff shortages, and ‘the changing nature of the NHS.’ The survey also found that 82% of staff said that their workload had increased, while 64% responded that staff shortages were frequent, and 67% said that there were not enough healthcare workers to carry out the work required. As a result of this, 36% said that the care being provided to patients had got worse.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis, said: ‘Ministers wasted a huge amount on a costly reorganisation the NHS did not need. They are allowing our NHS to implode and need to recognise that the squeeze on NHS finances is directly affecting staff and patients. The chronic understaffing and mounting pressure on NHS workers mean many are at the end of their tethers and feel they have no other option but to leave.’
The survey also found that these working conditions had led to staff frequently working unpaid overtime. Of those surveyed, 55% reported working unpaid overtime at least once a week. Of these, 76% said that they worked up to five hours overtime each week, while 24% said that they worked overtime for six or more hours. Half of respondents who worked overtime said that they did it because it would be impossible to do the job without it, and 41% said that they worked overtime to provide the best possible care for patients.
Mr Prentis added: ‘NHS pay scales have fallen way behind living costs so nurses, healthcare assistants, ambulance staff and medical secretaries have to work as many hours as they can to feed their families and pay their bills. The government must recognise the risk to patient care and raise salaries now to stop an NHS staff exodus. The health service cannot afford to lose its dedicated and skilled workforce, and we are urging the government to work with us to improve the health and well-being of staff.’