76 Percent of NHS Staff Have Experienced Mental Health Issues: Poll

The poll found that three quarters of NHS staff had experienced mental health issues in the last year, including anxiety, low mood, and exhaustion.
76 Percent of NHS Staff Have Experienced Mental Health Issues: Poll
A hospital in the United Kingdom in an undated file photo. (Peter Byrne/PA)
Victoria Friedman
4/16/2024
Updated:
4/16/2024
0:00

More than three quarters of NHS staff have experienced mental health issues in the past year, according to a survey.

The poll of 1,078 NHS staff commissioned by NHS Charities Together and conducted by YouGov found that 76 percent of respondents had experienced poor mental health.

More than half (52 percent) of respondents said they had struggled with anxiety, 51 percent had had low moods, and 42 percent had experienced exhaustion.

Ellie Orton, chief executive of NHS Charities Together—a network of more than 200 NHS charities across the UK—said NHS staff “do a hugely challenging job every day, often dealing with traumatic events most of us would never encounter.”

Ms. Orton added that 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 well-being 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,” she said.

Responding to the findings, an NHS England spokesperson said: “Staff well-being 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, well-being 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,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson added that the health service was “taking action to offer more choice and flexibility than ever before, while supporting the introduction of health and well-being champions across the NHS and strengthening occupational health services to support staff with their mental health.”

31 Percent of Staff Take Time Off With Mental Health Issues

The findings by NHS Charities Together follows survey results published by trade union UNISON, which showed that 31 percent of NHS staff had taken time off work in the last year because they were experiencing mental health issues.

The survey of more than 12,000 health workers across the UK published on April 7 also found that staff, including nurses, porters, and 999 call handlers, had reported experiencing depression, low moods, and sleepless nights.

Respondents also said they experienced the physical symptoms of stress, including high blood pressure, panic attacks, chest pains, and headaches.

The vast majority (89 percent) of those surveyed by the union said better pay and recognition would make a difference to their mental well-being. Measures to stop bullying and harassment (68 percent) and a change in work patterns (58 percent) also scored highly among respondents.

Nearly Half of NHS Staff Looking for Work

Recent research has pointed to NHS staff looking for work outside the health service, with some citing stress as a reason for wanting to leave.
Research from the University of Bath published last week found that almost half (47 percent) of NHS staff have looked for work outside the health service.

More than a quarter (29 percent) have actively inquired about non-NHS work. Between March and June 2023, 14 percent had applied for non-NHS roles.

Researchers said that stress, pay, workload, and staff shortages were among the top reasons for leaving the health service.

Responding to the University of Bath’s findings, NHS England’s Chief Workforce Officer Dr. Navina Evans said the service knows “there is more work to do to retain our hardworking NHS staff and support them to stay in the health service for longer.”

File photo of staff on an NHS hospital ward on Jan. 18, 2023. (Jeff Moore/PA Wire)
File photo of staff on an NHS hospital ward on Jan. 18, 2023. (Jeff Moore/PA Wire)

A 3rd of Doctors Say They Are Likely to Move Abroad

Another poll, commissioned by the General Medical Council (GMC) and published on Friday, revealed that nearly a third of doctors in the UK said they are likely to leave the UK in the next 12 months to practise medicine abroad.

The GMC’s research found that 13 percent of practising doctors said they were “very likely” to emigrate in the next year and a further 17 percent said they were “fairly likely.”

The council said that previous research shows a gap between intention and action. However, GMC Chief Executive Charlie Massey remarked, “Though the number of doctors actually leaving to practise abroad in 2023 was comparably low, these findings are a warning to all should conditions fail to improve.”

When doctors were asked about their reasons for considering emigration, “increasing pay” was the top reason at 79 percent, followed by “feeling undervalued professionally” (75 percent).

A general view of staff on an NHS hospital ward on Jan. 18, 2023. (Jeff Moore/PA)
A general view of staff on an NHS hospital ward on Jan. 18, 2023. (Jeff Moore/PA)

Another high proportion (72 percent) wanted a “better quality of life,” with other reasons being the “demands of role adversely affecting well-being” (62 percent), and wanting to have “more non-working time” (61 percent).

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson told The Epoch Times on Friday, “We hugely value NHS doctors, which is why we’re improving their working lives by increasing support, improving line management, and increasing access to flexible working.”

The department said, “There are more than 5 percent more doctors working in the NHS than last year and the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan will double the number of medical school placed by 2031 and improve culture, leadership, and well-being.”

PA Media contributed to this report.
Victoria Friedman is a UK-based reporter covering a wide range of national stories.