NHS staff morale improves but too many facing abuse

NHS staff say they are now happier and more likely to recommend their organisation as a place to work than last year, but too many still experience unacceptable abuse from patients and the public.

569,000 NHS employees across 300 separate organisations responded to this year’s NHS Staff Survey, with the results showing staff morale has improved across the NHS.

Staff also reported that the quality of care in the NHS has improved over the last year, with more than seven in 10 saying they would recommend their organisation to their family and friends for treatment, a proportion that has increased every year for the past five years.

Over four fifths of staff said they were happy with the quality of care they give to patients, and the proportion of staff saying they were able to deliver the care they aspire to was at its highest recorded level.

Sir Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, said: “It’s welcome news that according to over half a million NHS employees, staff morale is now improving, and patient safety scores are now at a five year high. While teams across the country are under real pressure, NHS staff consistently go the extra mile for patients. So as a country we need to show the same commitment to them, which is why we are determined to clamp down on abuse and aggression in all its forms.”

Staff this year are more likely to report that their manager encourages them at work, strains on working relationships have reduced, and staff are less likely to want to leave their organisation compared to 2018.

However, more than one in four (28.5%) said they had experienced harassment, bullying or abuse from patients, relatives or members of the public, almost one in seven (14.9%) experienced physical violence, and almost 40,000 of those who responded (7.2%) said they faced discrimination from patients over the last year – up from 5.8% in 2015.

Racism was the most common form of discrimination, but 2019 also saw the highest levels of reported sexism and intolerance of religion and sexuality.

The new figures comes as NHS leaders confirmed that from April under NHS England’s new  Standard Contract rules, NHS services will be able to protect staff by barring from non-emergency care any patient or visitor who inflicts discriminatory or harassing behaviour on staff.

Previously, individual NHS organisations could only refuse services to patients if they were aggressive or violent.

For the fifth year running, the percentage of staff reporting that their managers take a positive interest in their health and wellbeing rose, growing from 66% in 2015 to 70% last year, while more staff say they are satisfied with flexible working options, and fewer report working unpaid overtime.

Prerana Issar, Chief People Officer for the NHS said: “Taking care of and valuing our staff is at the heart of our ambition to make the NHS the best place to work, so I am delighted that managers are increasingly taking an active interest in the health and wellbeing of their teams.

“Creating a healthy, inclusive and compassionate culture is paramount to delivering the care patients expect.

“It is not acceptable that our NHS people experience any form of discrimination from patients or the public at work. Our People Plan will set out what colleagues can expect from the NHS as a modern employer.”