RCPsych calls for better staff support to cope with winter pressures

Statement / comment
14 November 2023

NHS Providers annual state of the provider sector survey has found hospital leaders are concerned about staff burnout as they prepare to face another challenging winter. 

Responding to the survey, Dr Ananta Dave, the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Presidential Lead for Wellbeing and Retention, said:

“This survey unsurprisingly identifies that NHS services need additional support if they are to bring down waiting lists this winter. Every patient deserves to be able to access timely care and services need to be adequately resourced to do so.

“Winter can be a particularly difficult time for mental health patients and NHS staff alike. Many of our members report struggling with burnout due to stressful working conditions which can be exacerbated during this period.

“We know, for example, that sickness absence rates across the NHS workforce have risen, and that almost a quarter of sickness days were attributed to stress, depression, anxiety and other mental illness between 2019 and 2022.

Additionally, mental health services and A&E departments are facing growing levels of need, and this is likely to increase as we head into winter.

“Having qualified colleagues in post to support each other is the single biggest factor in staff wellbeing. Action must therefore be taken to boost recruitment and retention within the mental health workforce.

“In the immediate term, the Government should continue to fund staff mental health and wellbeing hubs to support the health, wellbeing, and resilience of all staff. Psychiatrists should also have protected time to access workplace wellbeing benefits, which should align with approved job descriptions by the College. To help our doctors provide the best care possible, we need to make sure they are resilient.  

“In the medium to longer-term we need to see commitments to double medical school places implemented and fully funded. Capital investment is also required to ensure there is appropriate capacity to support increases in trainee places, particularly in shortage specialties including psychiatry.

“It’s vital there are enough healthcare professionals to provide people with fast and effective care, regardless of the time of the year.”

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