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Sky-high stress could cause NHS exodus

78% of health service workers are considering quitting to escape crushing work pressures, anxiety and burnout, new survey reveals

MORE than three-quarters of NHS staff are considering quitting due to stress, burnout and anxiety, according to shocking figures published today.

A massive 78 per cent of the 2,500 NHS workers surveyed by campaign group Organise reported experiencing stress and over half (55 per cent) had taken time off because of stress, anxiety or burnout as the crisis in the NHS deepens, with 25 per cent staying away from work for more than a month.

Most NHS workers pointed to the impact that this was having on patient care, with over half saying that patients had experienced “medication errors, delays in procedures and a compromised quality of care.”

Occupational therapist Caroline Walker (not her real name) said: “I work in the community and hear horror stories of people’s time in hospital — being left soiled, thirsty or in pain as there aren’t enough staff to see to their needs, especially in single rooms, often not being able to reach a buzzer or falling and staff not knowing for a while as no-one is checking until meals come round.

“Assessments aren’t done as they’re so desperate for beds. In the time I was off for stress, seven staff members left their jobs. We have only been able to replace two.”

Organise described the findings as evidence of “low pay and understaffing” in the NHS taking its toll and leading to 78.5 per cent of workers surveyed actively considering leaving the service altogether.

The Department for Health and Social Care said that the health and wellbeing of NHS staff was of “paramount importance,” adding: “The NHS is providing ongoing mental health support for staff.

“To ease the pressures on healthcare staff, the NHS will soon publish a long-term workforce plan to support and grow the workforce.”

However, Ben Paget (not his real name), a staff nurse in York, said he was convinced that a change of approach was needed, calling for prevention, rather than cure.

“I have always been asked to go to the occupational health or use the NHS counselling service,” he said.

“This is all very well, but talking alone will not change the fact that tomorrow I am back on an understaffed ward, the cause of my mental health issues.”

Dr John Puntis, a retired paediatrician and Keep Our NHS Public chairman, said: “The shocking findings in this survey reveal a workforce on its knees from pressures directly resulting from government policies of underfunding and failing to tackle workforce planning with the seriousness it deserves.

“The consequences will be the exacerbation of the current dire staff vacancy rate and further deterioration in patient care.

“A just pay settlement with new money is an essential first response in addressing this problem.”

Organise head Nat Whalley said: “NHS workers are exposing a ticking time bomb at the heart of our healthcare system.

“A staggering 78 per cent of NHS workers are considering jobs outside the NHS, which could result in a severe shortage of healthcare professionals, compromising patient care and the very foundation of our NHS.

“Thousands of us are demanding better pay, improved working conditions and comprehensive support systems for our invaluable healthcare professionals.

“We don’t need empty promises, we need tangible investment in the NHS that allow workers to thrive in their roles without suffering from stress, anxiety and burnout.

“Listen to us, invest in the well-being of our NHS workforce and ensure the future of the NHS.”

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