by Tim Lezard Increased workload, low pay, constant restructures and the stresses of the job are among the reasons why two thirds (66%) of NHS workers have considered quitting, according to a new report by Incomes Data Services for the NH …

Tim Lezard Europe, UK, UK unions, Unison, Health




by Tim Lezard

Increased workload, low pay, constant restructures and the stresses of the job are among the reasons why two thirds (66%) of NHS workers have considered quitting, according to a new report by Incomes Data Services for the NHS trade unions.

The survey of nearly 30,000 union members working in the NHS, including cleaners, radiographers, nurses and senior managers, reveals how workers are feeling the strain as more than a third of respondents work unpaid overtime.

This was seconded by four in five of the managers during in-depth interviews. Around half of managers feel unpaid overtime is causing problems with morale, motivation, fatigue and ‘burning out’.

The research also shows a growing number (62%) rely on extra earnings compared to 54% in 2012.

Christina McAnea, UNISON Head of Health and Chair of the staff side NHS trade unions said: “This report should ring alarm bells. We are at risk of losing a strong experienced and dedicated workforce and somehow this government seems immune to their plea.

“Staff are the heart and blood of the NHS, bringing life saving resources to the millions of patients and families who rely on the service.

“They are an incredible force for good and deserve to be looked after. NHS workers often sacrifice their own time and money to care for the public. And all this Government finds to give them in return is contempt. This makes absolutely no sense.

“As it currently stands, working in the NHS is hardly an attractive career option.  So the Government needs to face its responsibilities and urgently address the underlying issues in the NHS, starting with pay and staff shortages.”

Josie Irwin of the Royal College of Nursing and Secretary of the staff side NHS trade unions said: “Our research highlights the growing recruitment and retention problem in the NHS.  Morale has plummeted in the last year, largely as a consequence of staff shortages and related workload stress. Ongoing pay restraint has also left them feeling unvalued and taken for granted. It is no wonder that so many staff feel unhappy and why so many have considered leaving their job in the last year.

“It is plainly not in the interest of patients that so many staff have to work additional hours or take a second job just to make ends meet. Not paying staff fairly for the vital work they do is leading to staff voting with their feet.  This will only make staff shortages worse, which could ultimately affect the quality of patient care.

“The government must heed the stark warning in this report, address the underfunding of the NHS and reward staff fairly for the tough jobs they do day in and day out.”

The report found that the majority of NHS staff work in excess of their contracted hours, with 71% working up to four extra hours per week. Despite working extra hours, two in five said they did not have enough time and resources to carry out their job. And more than half (51%) said these were to provide the best care possible for patients.

80% said increased workplace stress is the reason why low morale is on the rise. Only 16% said they feel supported by their senior managers, while three quarters said they feel supported by their team members. NHS staff also said they feel undervalued by politicians and by the press.

72% reported staff shortages occurred frequently (up from 66% in 2012). This was worryingly higher (85%) for some key occupational groups such as ambulance, maternity wards and midwives.

Nine in ten across the four UK nations said pay awards are unfair as they do not take into account increases in the cost of living. In England, around 60% of NHS staff are on top of their pay bands. Of these, two-thirds also said an unconsolidated award was unfair.

A quarter of those who responded said they were ‘very’ dissatisfied with their pay (compared to 18% in 2012). Similarly, the number of those dissatisfied with their level of pay continues to rise with two thirds now saying there are unhappy with it.

One third said they rely on unsocial hours, special duty and shift premia and 21% rely on overtime pay.  71% said they would not seek these hours if the Government was to reduce unsocial hours payments.

Constant restructures and reorganisations have created an atmosphere of job insecurity and left some staff experiencing ‘survivor symptoms’, with workers feeling guilty for having kept their jobs when colleagues were made redundant.

Managers interviewed said that paying the Living Wage would boost productivity and increase staff retention for porters, cleaners, caterers and all those on bands 1 and 2.

Quotes from NHS managers:

An NHS manager said: “Everyone here is completely overwhelmed. I work 60 hours per week.”

An NHS governance manager said: ” People are doing a lot of extra hours, partly because they are really dedicated and want to make it work and partly because without it the trust couldn’t function at all.”

A director of nursing and quality said: “Managers work an extra ten hours a week and ward staff five hours. A lot of the NHS is run on goodwill.”

An NHS property service manager said: “Many roles were down-banded and people applied for lower banded roles as they were desperate to have a job.”

A very senior manager with a national role said: ” Around 30,000 staff were made redundant when the new national organisation was set up.”

Another manager added: “The number of staff has been halved and the amount of work has doubled.”

An NHS recruitment manager said: “People are fed up because we go round and round in circles. We did a big reorganisation and down-banded lots of people, then six months later it is ‘all change’ again.”

Earlier this year, the government wrote to the independent NHS Pay Review Body asking itnot to make recommendations and not to collect evidence on pay awards for Agenda for Change staff for 2015/2016. The IDS report would have formed part of the joint trade unions’ evidence to achieve fair pay in the NHS.

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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