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NHS staff survey shows job satisfaction on the slide

NHS England has published the latest (2017) NHS Staff Survey, showing that staff feel under pressure but say they are being better supported by their NHS managers.

However, the overall picture is not encouraging. Since 2016, 11 Key Findings have improved whilst 21 Key Findings have declined; 36 questions have improved but 58 have declined.


Job satisfaction overall is down whilst physical violence from patients, relatives or the public and from other members of staff are all up. One in six members of staff (15%) report they have experienced physical violence from patients, relatives or members of the public and some 8% of staff say they have experienced discrimination from colleagues.


Overall staff engagement scored 3.78 out of 5 in 2017. This has decreased since 2016 (3.80) and is in fact the first decline in staff engagement since 2014.  The number satisfied with their pay fell to 31%, down 6% on 2016 figures. 


Responding to the survey results UNISON Head of Health Sara Gorton says: “It’s clear that wage freezes, and woeful pay rises below the rate of inflation, have taken their toll on NHS staff. If this isn’t addressed, the NHS is going to haemorrhage more staff. This not only puts further pressure on the remaining nurses, healthcare assistants and other NHS colleagues, but also ultimately affects patient care and safety." 


Around a third of staff, (38%), said that they had experienced work related stress over the last 12 months, up 1.6% on the previous year but slightly down on five years ago.


There are some positives:


More than four out of five, 81%, are satisfied with the quality of care they give to patients and nine out of 10 staff feel their organisation takes positive action on health and wellbeing.


The number of staff who said they were happy with the support they receive from their manager increased for the fifth year in a row to almost seven out of 10 (68%). Fewer staff also feel pressured by managers or colleagues to come to work when they are ill and fewer staff are working unpaid hours (58.3% compared to 59.1% in 2016) but more are working additional paid hours (33% compared to 32.4% in 2016).


The survey was carried out in the run up to and during the NHS’s pressurised winter between September and December 2017 across 309 NHS organisations garnering 485,000 staff responses, an increase of 64,000 and an increase of 21% in responses from BME staff.  This takes in views from about a third of the NHS workforce and is the biggest response achieved in the survey’s 15-year history.


The survey is produced as a resource to NHS Trusts and commissioners to help them improve staff experience. The Care Quality Commission will use the results to help make sure safety and quality standards are being met and NHS Improvement also looks at the findings which reveal significant variation between individual Trusts, so helping them focus on areas needing attention. NHS England also runs a number of programmes to address issues at national level.


Variations are also seen between different types of NHS Trusts in the results of the survey. Ambulance Trusts continued to report the lowest employee engagement scores.


Neil Churchill, Director of Patient experience at NHS England, says: “Staff are going above and beyond to deliver the best care under pressure and these results show that staff appreciate the efforts of managers to listen, support and act on staff concerns. Nevertheless there are warning signs NHS employers will need to do all they can to ensure the NHS supports our staff to deliver the high standards expected by patients.”


Click here to download the full staff survey findings.