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NHS England survey 'lays bare' staff in crisis, says RCN, warning change can't wait

9 Mar 2023

A decline in staff satisfaction with the quality of care, increased pressure in the workplace and crisis in mental health could spell disaster for the NHS.

Tired nurse in scrubs in a hospital corridor looking straight at camera NHS staff survey results released today (9 March) show a significant decline in the quality of patient care and wellbeing of nurses and midwifery staff across England, says the RCN.

The findings from the annual survey carried out between September and December 2022 reveal that only 61.8% of nurses and midwives in the NHS in England said they would be happy with the standard of care provided by their organisation should a friend or relative need treatment. This is a fall of nearly 12% in only two years.

This sharp decline in the quality of patient care follows growing pressure due to staff shortages. Only a fifth (21.3%) of staff reported that there are enough staff at their organisation for them to do their job properly, compared to a third (33.4%) in 2020, despite the NHS delivering care during the COVID-19 pandemic at the time.

These pressures are having a damaging impact on the health and wellbeing of NHS staff. 50.3% report having felt unwell because of work-related stress in the last 12 months, while two-fifths (39.7%) of staff report they feel burnt out because of their work.

Talks are ongoing between health unions and the UK government over staff pay. Across England only 25.6% of all NHS staff reported they were satisfied with their pay, falling to 18.6% among nurses and midwifery staff.

An additional question over care quality revealed a stark picture of the risks to staff and patient safety, with 44.8% of nurses and midwives responding that they have seen errors, near misses or incidents that could have hurt staff or patients in the last month.

Speaking about the findings, Patricia Marquis, RCN Director for England, expressed concern over the pressures facing nursing staff: “Nursing staff are the bedrock of the NHS, and the largest profession within the service. 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.

“The data on errors and incidents that could have hurt staff or patients within the NHS is another urgent reminder of the investment that the nursing workforce and its patients desperately need.

“The commitment of nursing to quality care and safe workplaces has been the driving force behind the RCN’s Nursing Workforce Standards and Raising Concerns toolkit. Together, both resources support members to recognise and raise issues safely.”

Page last updated - 07/08/2023