NHS staff struggling with burnout need more support, says RCPsych

Statement / comment
11 April 2024

A UNISON survey has found 31% of NHS employees have had to take time off work with mental health issues in the past year.

Nurses, paramedics and other health workers reported experiencing depression, low mood and sleepless nights while others suffered from panic attacks and high blood pressure.

One in five did not tell their employer the real cause of their absence, with 45% of those saying they did not feel their manager or employer would be supportive.

The union warned many NHS staff members are struggling to look after their own wellbeing and burnout could cause some people to quit.

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

“This survey shows that burnout is taking a significant toll on thousands of NHS employees, with many suffering from poor physical health and mental illness as a result.

“Our own members report struggling with increasingly unmanageable workloads due to rising demand. They are under intense pressure which has been exacerbated by chronic staff vacancies and often don’t have enough colleagues they can rely on for support.

“A significant portion of staff also don’t feel comfortable sharing their concerns with their manager when they do develop burnout. Suffering in silence only harms people’s health and hinders their performance at work, which is why we must make tackling this issue a top priority.

“Government commitments to increase medical school places and expand the NHS workforce will help ensure staff are better supported in the long term. It is vital that this investment is used to develop specialities with significant staff shortages including psychiatry.

“We also urgently need at least one year of central funding for all NHS staff mental health and wellbeing hubs to continue so that employees can access the support they need. This should be followed by adequate support for ICSs and individual partners to take over the hubs at a devolved level, which in turn will contribute to staff retention.”

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