Data: why NHS workers quit


At the end of June hundreds of thousands of people will be marching to celebrate and defend our National Health Service.

The NHS is facing many problems because of under-funding, one of those being the decline in pay and working conditions for staff.

UNISON is told this by our members on a daily basis, but one way to quantify it is to use the government’s own published data on why NHS staff are quitting.

The latest data tracks reasons for leaving from quarter one in the financial year 2011/12 to quarter three in 2017/18.

During that time the total number of leavers increased by 6%, but the data reveals that some of the more worrying reasons for staff leaving have increased dramatically.

For example, the most recent data shows that almost 5,000 staff left their NHS job for ‘better work-life balance’ over October, November and December 2017. In the first quarter of 2011 that figure was 1,521, meaning it has increased by 213%.

Those stating they are leaving because of a lack of opportunities has also increased by a huge amount, up 129% from 372 to 852.

Those leaving to seek a better reward package rose from 600 to 1,305, an increase of 117%.

While some of these may have left for a better reward package within the NHS, the data still shows that many reward packages within the health service simply aren’t good enough to retain staff.

Looking at these three reasons together, we can see that almost one in six workers who left the NHS at the end of 2017 did so for a negative reason: because of the lack of opportunity, the absence of a work-life balance or an inadequate rewards package.

UNISON’s head of health Sara Gotron, said that the rewards package for NHS staff has been “simply unacceptable,” and this data proves that it is having an impact. “Every person who leaves citing this reason is a person who could have been persuaded to stay,” she said.

There are several other reasons given for leaving, the top three for the latest period being voluntary resignation for unknown reasons, voluntary resignation to relocate, and voluntary resignation for work life balance. Others include retirement, transferral, dismissal, and death in service (which thankfully has not increased).

It’s not all bad news though. The fifth most popular reason that people give for leaving a job is promotion.

You can see all the reasons people gave for quitting at the end of 2017 below.

UNISON has negotiated an improved pay package for NHS staff in England – the consultation on it has just finished – and if agreed will be implemented in July and backdated to April.

Find out about the NHS event to celebrate and defend the NHS on 30 June.