The NHS Staff Survey is one of the largest workforce surveys in the world and has been conducted every year since 2003 to get a glimpse into life in the NHS. The survey is sent to all of the 1.5 million people working in the NHS. The 2022 survey had 636,348 responses, representing 46% of the workforce. The survey had respondents from 264 organisations within the NHS, including all 215 trusts in England.
The survey is reflective of the NHS’s People Promise, a document published in 2020, that sets out goals for the wellbeing and culture of NHS staff by 2024. The People Promise reflects the NHS’s commitment to improving conditions for staff, and prioritising wellbeing, diversity and inclusion. It is clear that while staff report feeling part of a team and enjoy working with colleagues, there are some concerns over staffing levels and pay and feeling recognised and rewarded.
Survey Results: Wellbeing and Morale
The survey indicates that staff wellbeing and morale have dropped since the 2021 survey. Staff are most concerned with safe levels of staffing and pay, though the government announced new pay scales for specialist doctors at the beginning of this month, and it is likely a pay deal will be agreed as the result of recent strike action. The NHS is also due to publish it’s Workforce Plan later this spring, which will outline a plan to increase retention and recruitment.
The number of staff reporting feeling unwell as a result of work-related stress had dropped since 2021, reflecting the increased prioritisation of staff safety and wellbeing. Though the NHS has some way to go to improve morale, it is clearly priorisiting the wellbeing of it’s staff.
Survey Results: Diversity and Equality
The survey also reflected an improvement in staff reporting that their trust acts fairly with regard to career progression and promotion, at 56%. There was also an improvement in staff saying they felt individual difference was respected. The survey also reflected a small improvement in inclusion ratings- with 71% saying their colleagues are understanding and kind to one another. Though staff are reporting some concerns about staffing levels, pay and patient safety, the NHS remains an inclusive and supportive employer.
The survey also showed good satisfaction with career progression, with 68% agreeing that they have opportunities to improve their knowledge and skills- though only 32% agreed they had clear objectives for their work. 57% surveyed said they would recommend their organisation as a place work, reflecting an increase in feelings of teamwork and learning opportunities.
Reaction to the Workforce Survey Results
Danny Mortimer, Chief Executive of NHS Employers, said: ‘It is no surprise given that we have now witnessed several months of industrial action by NHS staff that those same staff, who have worked through extraordinary challenges over the past few years, have expressed their feelings of deep frustration in these responses.
It is of course concerning to see that 17% of staff considering leaving for another job will do so as soon as they find one that, despite the continuing efforts of health leaders to recruit and retain employees, the numbers of those willing to recommend the NHS as an employee has also dropped…
At the same time the hard work of team leaders and managers is borne out by the results that more staff say that they feel listened to by their line managers, that they take effective action and help with any problems and that they take a positive interest in their health and wellbeing’.
It seems that the NHS has some way to go to achieve the promises it sets out in its 2021 People Promise- the NHS remains one of the top and most diverse and inclusive employers in the world, and continues it offers world class training and progression. However, the results of the survey demonstrate the need to increase recruitment to improve retention now. In the interim between increasing training places and those medical students qualifying, it is clear we must hire more international doctors on permanent contracts to plug the gaps.
How will this impact the NHS?
The long-awaited NHS Long Term Workforce Plan is expected to be released later in the spring, though it is not clear what the plan will include- and its targets for recruitment are already facing pushback by the treasury. The government has so far proposed increasing training places for medical students, though so far there is no accounting for the 7-10 years it will take these students to qualify. It is clear that further urgent action is needed to ensure current staff are retained and the NHS remains an attractive employer.