More than half NHS and social care staff in London considering quitting over pandemic impact

There’s a real danger many leave the NHS for somewhere they feel more appreciated

NHS and social care staff in London have revealed that they feel let down by the government and unable to cope with work-related stress, according to a survey published today (Wednesday) by UNISON.

The findings are based on responses from over 2,000 health and care workers ​across the capital, including nurses, midwives, healthcare assistants, as well as ambulance and administration staff, says UNISON.

Seven in ten staff ​responding to the survey (70%) said they’d been so overwhelmed by work-related stress they felt unable to cope. And over half (54%) admitted they’d considered quitting ​the NHS or social care altogether due to the pressures experienced over the past year, the union added.

The ​survey results reveal ​a third (33%) didn’t feel they had enough support in the workplace to protect their well-being. Nearly a quarter (24%) of employees sought professional help to deal with the strain their roles placed on their mental health, UNISON says.

A total of 74% of staff felt the government had failed to protect their personal safety adequately throughout the pandemic​. More than three in ten (31%) admitted they’d ​had to work in roles they felt unqualified for due to ​Covid-related staff shortages, according to the survey.

After all they’ve been through in the past twelve months, almost three quarters (74%) of social care staff and 77% of NHS workers said the government’s recommendation of a 1% pay rise for health workers was an insult, UNISON added.

UNISON London head of health Jamie Brown said: “NHS staff in London have made tremendous sacrifices in the fight against ​Covid.

“Care workers too have given their all. Their physical and mental health has suffered as well. Staff need urgent access to well-being helplines, as well as on-site mental health support teams.

​”Morale is understandably on the floor, which isn’t helped one bit by the government insisting on claiming a 1% pay rise is all the country can afford.

“Tomorrow on the day that NHS staff are due a pay rise, households across London are being urged to display colourful posters in their windows in support of health workers.

“The government should show ​it values all the hard work ​of staff by giving them a proper pay rise​, and not making them wait until later in the summer.

“There’s a real danger many employees may feel they can ​no longer face such demanding roles​ and leave the NHS for somewhere they feel more appreciated.”

Anonymous respondents:
– ​Jennifer, a nurse in North London, said: “I’ve continued to work throughout the pandemic, some weeks doing 12-hour days, six days a week. I’ve been so physically and emotionally exhausted I’m able to do little else. My role has meant juggling patients and supporting a large team including redeployed staff, all living through such uncertainty. I love my job and want to offer a high quality and caring service, but it becomes increasingly difficult to do.”
– ​Simon, a healthcare assistant in East London, said: “I was experiencing flashbacks from working in intensive care. I couldn’t sleep because I was thinking about ​all the people that ​had died and worrying whether there was anything else I could have done.” 
– ​Chrissie, who works for the ambulance service ​in South London, said: “I was re-deployed during the pandemic to a role and a team I’d no previous experience with. Due to staff shortages, I ended up running the team without any training.” 

Notes to editors:
– The findings are based on results from 2,222 ​health and social care workers in London. The survey was open from 8-15 March 2021.
– UNISON wants to see all health workers receive a pay rise of at least £2,000. Health workers are currently in the final year of a three-year deal. They’re due a pay rise tomorrow (1 April). The government’s evidence to the NHS pay review body has proposed a 1% pay increase. The pay review body is due to make its recommendation later in the year. The Prime Minister has told MPs to wait for the pay review body report and that the government won’t make a decision on pay until then. Last week health workers in Scotland were offered pay rises worth 4% overall. Most care workers in London work for private companies and are low paid. UNISON and other organisations are urging the government to provide a £3.9bn emergency cash injection so staff can receive real living wage of £10.85 an hour.

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