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  • 12 March 2024
  • 3 min read

The Wellbeing Of NHS Staff Is More Important Than Ever

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Low staff morale within the NHS is having a detrimental effect on patient careLow staff morale within the NHS is having a detrimental effect on patient care

Despite the increasing number of people working in the health service, workforce growth in the NHS has not kept pace with rising patient demand. Nurses and other clinicians are under huge pressures. The need for wellbeing support is more keen than ever.

Data from NHS England showed a total of 383,862 nurses and health visitors working in the NHS as of October 2023, an increase of nearly 6% from the same month the previous year.

However, healthcare think-tank The King’s Fund has warned that the staffing shortfall remains and, combined with low staff morale within the NHS, is having a detrimental effect on patient care.

Director of Policy at The King’s Fund, Sally Warren, cautioned that the growth in staff numbers had not been evenly dispersed throughout the NHS: “…an increase in the number of nurses has been evident in acute hospital settings but has declined in learning disability services and community services,” she explained.

She elaborated further: “…the NHS workforce is also encumbered with low staff satisfaction, ongoing industrial action, and many staff leaving the NHS due to poor work-life balance.”

Action on recruitment and retention will help wellbeing

According to Ms Warren, the government and healthcare bosses could address these issues by strengthening recruitment efforts and taking bolder action to improve retention.

Such efforts could be vital, given the recently unveiled NHS Long Term Workforce Plan is built on an ambitious plan to double nurse training places by 2031, and by 2037 recruit up to 190,000 additional nurses.

In order to achieve this target, the Chief Nursing Officer for England Dame Ruth May stated that the crucial factor would be: “improving the experiences of our colleagues who work so hard to provide patients and the public with the very best care.”

“…if you don’t look after yourself, you can’t look after others” - Professor Jill Maben, professor of health services research and nursing at the University of Surrey

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Tougher working environments demand even more focus on wellbeing

Recently, researchers at the University of Surrey created a new guide for health leaders on how to improve staff wellbeing.

Professor Jill Maben, a professor of health services research and nursing at the University of Surrey and co-lead author of the guide said: “We need a whole systems approach and a whole organisational approach – this is everybody’s business.”

She said nursing and midwifery could be “stressful [and] difficult professions” and, therefore, psychological health needed to be “planned from the minute students walk in the door”.

The University of Surrey guide also recommended that trust leaders prioritised meeting the essential needs of staff; for example, ensuring access to food and rest areas.

Professor Maben said she wanted to emphasise that it was “okay to put your needs first” and “look after yourself”.

“It’s not always easy to take a break, to go and get a drink or get some food, or even go and have a bathroom break because you’re so busy and understaffed,” she declared.

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About the author

I believe people working in healthcare should be able to choose to enjoy work. That is, choose an employer who reflects their values and provides them with a sustainable career. This leads to better patient care, higher retention rates and happier working lives in this most important employment sector.

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