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NHS workers in despair over pay, staffing shortages, and plummeting standards of care

A DEVASTATING picture of the NHS facing catastrophe has been laid bare in one of the largest workplace surveys in the health service.

Tens of thousands said they would not trust the NHS to treat their own relatives, the poll of more than 600,000 staff found.

Nurses, midwives and other workers expressed their utter despair over pay, staffing shortages, plummeting standards of care, lack of time to do their jobs properly and their own wellbeing.

Almost a quarter said they will probably look for a job outside the NHS in the next 12 months.

NHS England said that with 636,348 staff participating in its survey it was the biggest of its kind in the world.

It found that only 61.8 per cent of nurses and midwives would be happy with the standard of care provided in their own part of the NHS if a friend or relative needed treatment.

This represents a fall in confidence of nearly 12 per cent in two years, and the biggest decline in all the survey’s findings.

Only 21.3 per cent of staff reported that there are enough staff for them to do their job properly, compared to a 33.4 per cent in 2020. 

The NHS has 130,000 vacancies including for 40,000 nurses.

And only 25.6 per cent of staff were satisfied with their pay.

The findings paint an even bleaker picture among ambulance workers, with 40 per cent witnessing errors or near misses that harmed, or could harm, patients or staff last year.

Around half of ambulance staff said they have felt burnt out, while 42 per cent said they often think about quitting, compared with 32.3 per cent across the whole NHS.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN), representing more than 500,000 staff including nurses and midwives, said the survey exposed the dire state of the NHS.

RCN director for England Patricia Marquis said: “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.

“Chronic staff shortages create stress and suffering for everyone in healthcare — day after day, week after week — it is patients who ultimately feel the impact of these compounding pressures.”

Helga Pile, Unison deputy head of health, said: “No-one should be in any doubt as to the scale of the problems facing the NHS.

“Years of government neglect and underinvestment are to blame. Ministers have done nothing meaningful to stop the slide, despite repeated warnings.

“The outlook is bleak unless ministers change direction dramatically.”

She called for action in Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Budget next week.

Laurence Turner, GMB head of research and policy, said: “These shocking results show that a deal on pay is needed to end the crisis in NHS services.

“Pay satisfaction is plummeting, vacancies have rocketed, and ambulance workers are planning on leaving in droves.”

Dr John Puntis, retired paediatrician and co-chair of Keep Our NHS Public campaign group, said a “decade of neglect” has “left the NHS in such a weakened state that it is unable to tackle the current waiting lists, not least because of massive staff vacancies” and no workforce plan from the government.

“Increased workloads, low pay and being unable to provide quality care are grinding staff down,” he said. 

“Many are suffering harm to their mental health while increasingly opting to leave for less-stressful and better-paid jobs elsewhere.”

He said tens of thousands of NHS workers are expected to march with health campaigners, trade unionists and members of the public through London tomorrow to tell the government “enough is enough.”

Wes Streeting, Labour’s shadow health and social care secretary, called on Mr Hunt to adopt Labour’s plan to double medical school places and train 10,000 more nurses in his Budget next week.

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