6 March, 2018

News > NHS Staff Survey raises warning flags around stress and levels of pay

The results are in for the 2017 NHS Staff Survey, the largest workforce survey in the world, and the biggest survey in the history of the programme. This year over 487,000 responded – around two in five of all NHS staff in England.

The results of the 2017 NHS Staff Survey make for difficult reading. There were declines across many of the survey’s 94 questions with only a few improvements since 2016.

Arguably the most striking decline was employee satisfaction with their pay. Only 31% of NHS staff in England were ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with their level of pay. This is a 6% point decline on the 37% recorded in 2016 and the lowest in five years, perhaps reflecting below inflation pay increases for NHS employees.

The survey did show some encouraging results relating to management. One in three (34%), reported good communications between senior management and staff, a 1% increase from 2016, and 72% said that their immediate manager valued their work.

Similarly, the findings show that there were improvements around organisational focus on health and wellbeing. There was a modest increase in the proportion of respondents that felt their organisation took positive action to improve their health and wellbeing at work: 32% said that their organisation ‘definitely’ took action on this, compared to 30% in 2015.

In spite of this, some findings relating to health and wellbeing show cause for concern. Almost two in five respondents reported having felt unwell due to work related stress in the previous 12 months (38%), and over half of respondents (53%) had attended work in the previous three months despite feeling unwell because they felt pressure to attend. Of those who had attended work despite feeling unwell;

  • 92% said they had put themselves under pressure to attend
  • 25% said they felt pressure to attend from their manager
  • 20% said they felt pressure to attend from their colleagues

The findings follow research recently published by Picker and The King’s Fund that shows a clear relationship between workforce pressure and patient and staff experience. The report, titled ‘The risks to care quality and staff wellbeing of an NHS system under pressure’, considered the relationships between the self-reported experiences and wellbeing of NHS staff, measures of workforce pressures in the health system, and patients’ experiences of their care. It concluded that, unsurprisingly, work force factors such as sickness absence are negatively associated with staff experience at work, but also that poor staff experience is related to poor patient experience outcomes.

Chris Graham, CEO of Picker, said that:

“There is strong evidence to show that staff experiences at work are linked to the pressures & challenges that people face in their roles, and that staff wellbeing drives the quality of people’s experiences. Similarly, we know that good staff experiences are associated with better clinical outcomes and patient experiences. The results from today’s survey show that organisations are working hard to address staff well being, but equally that the workforce remains under considerable pressure. Additional support for staff is needed to ensure that employees are well looked after and that the service is able to provide the highest quality of care.”


Notes for editors

  • Picker is an international charity working across health and social care. We believe in high quality person centred care for all and promote this by measuring and encouraging the use of staff and patient feedback.
  • The 2017 NHS Staff Survey was co-ordinated by Picker on behalf of NHS England. A total of 309 NHS organisations took part in the survey, with questionnaires distributed between September 2017 and November 2017.
  • 1 million NHS staff were invited to participate and over 487,000 NHS employees completed the survey – a response rate was 45%.
  • This year’s survey is the biggest ever collection of feedback about staff experiences of working in the NHS.
  • Full details of the survey methodology, questions, and results are available on the dedicated survey website at nhsstaffsurveys.com
  • The press release regarding ‘The risks to care quality and staff wellbeing of an NHS system under pressure’ and a link to the report itself, can be found here: https://www.picker.org/news/nhs-reliance-agency-healthcare-workers-related-staff-wellbeing-patient-experience-care/

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