NHS staff survey underlines severe impact of pandemic on doctors’ wellbeing, says BMA

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: England
Published: Thursday 11 March 2021
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Responding to the publication of this year’s NHS Staff Survey, Dr Rob Harwood, BMA consultants committee chair, said:

“These findings underline the intense pressure NHS staff have been under this last year, and the severe impact that this has had on their health and wellbeing. As vast swathes of the country stayed at home, healthcare workers continued to go to work. Not only were many coming face-to-face with a deadly virus, often without adequate protection, but a large proportion were working in unfamiliar environments as they agreed to be redeployed to other roles so as to better respond to the pandemic.

“That 44% of all staff, and 40% of doctors and dentists, reported being ill because of work-related stress – a marked increase from previous years – is a stark, yet unsurprising figure, given all that they have been through. They have dealt with death and illness on a scale the NHS was completely unprepared for, which tragically far too often included their own friends and colleagues.

“This also reflects what our members are telling us, with half of respondents in our own February survey saying they are suffering with work-related mental health conditions, and almost 60% saying levels of exhaustion and fatigue are higher than normal.

“Given this backdrop, and with more than half of staff telling today’s survey that they’re working extra hours unpaid on a weekly basis, it’s no surprise that one in five respondents say they are planning on leaving the NHS entirely. With the Government now refusing to recognise the sacrifice of healthcare workers by threatening a real-terms pay cut after years of pay erosion, there’s a huge risk that many more talented and dedicated staff will choose to walk away, effectively having been pushed out by an ungrateful government.

“As today’s performance statistics show the enormous challenge facing the NHS workforce in terms of tackling the backlog of care – with the number of people waiting longer than a year for treatment at a record high and cancer waiting times continuing to rise – a further loss of staff would be devastating for patient care.

“Rather than placing further expectation and demand on an already exhausted and burnt out workforce, the Government must be forthcoming with the additional resource and support – including a fair pay deal – to ensure staff can manage, and take the rest and breaks they need and are entitled to.

“It’s also clear from these results that there is a huge way to go in improving NHS workplace culture, and that even during a pandemic, when staff are going so far above and beyond in their response, doctors are experiencing a five-year high in discrimination from managers. Meanwhile, BAME staff and those with long-term health conditions feel less safe at work than their colleagues. That such a high proportion of staff still say they’re being discriminated against on the basis of ethnicity is a disgrace, and needs addressing urgently.

“Stamping out discrimination and toxic cultures is vital if we’re to attract and retain the very best staff, so they in turn can provide the highest quality of care to patients.”


Notes to editors

The BMA is a trade union and professional association representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.