NHS staff feel ‘forgotten’ by public and are battling increasing abuse

On 2nd February 2022
Categories: 2022

NHS staff feel ‘forgotten’ by public and are battling increasing abuse – despite being busier than Covid peak.

Verbal and physical abuse of NHS staff is on the rise, with more than half of staff (54%) saying abuse has increased since last year, and 43% saying they have personally been on the receiving end of verbal and/or physical abuse from patients.1 In a survey we carried out with of over 1000 NHS workers1, two-thirds (67%) agreed ‘it feels like the public has forgotten NHS staff’, despite services being busier than during the Covid peak.


Most NHS staff are clear that support from the public helps them to feel valued and continue with their work, with six in ten (60%) agreeing or strongly agreeing. But the majority (62%) agree public support has declined since the start of the pandemic and it would give them a much-needed boost if the public got behind them again.1

Now, we are launching our #WithAllOurHearts campaign – asking the British public to get behind the NHS once again. And with research we have carried out showing the vast majority of Brits still have huge affection and admiration for NHS staff – 78% agree they still need our help and support, and 73% call staff ‘inspiring’ – we are urging everyone to show staff they still care.2

All plan B Covid restrictions, including mask wearing, ended in England last week – yet the majority of staff (69%) believe the NHS has never been under more strain.1 Nearly half of those surveyed (46%) said the increased workload caused by the Omicron variant and booster programme means they can’t do their job to the best of their ability, and close to a third (31%) said longer than usual working hours have left them physically exhausted.1

Mental health challenges amongst staff also continue to escalate. Three in ten staff (29%) said latest pressures (i.e. since December 2021) are damaging their mental health1, on top of the two thirds of staff who had already experienced a mental health condition since the start of the pandemic – with many reporting depression, anxiety and even post-traumatic stress disorder.3

Ellie Orton OBE, Chief Executive of NHS Charities Together, said:

“Covid-19 cases are still high across the UK, and we want to shine a light on the immense pressures the NHS continues to be under. Staff are working long and intense hours to protect and care for us – often becoming utterly burnt out in the process – and we know how much it means to them to have the public’s support.”


“While many NHS staff may feel like support has waned, our research shows people across the nations are still behind them, so we’re encouraging everyone to please show NHS staff some love and share the blue heart – and fundraise or donate to vital mental health and wellbeing projects if you can.”

Ben Glover, 43, lives in Southampton and changed careers just before the Covid-19 pandemic to become a paramedic. Working for South Central Ambulance Service, he has been under immense and increasing pressure in that time. Ben said:

“When the public first got behind us it was amazing – every Thursday you could hear pots and pans, clapping, cheering. We were noticing people buying us coffees, even letting us go first in queues. It was emotionally fulfilling. While support is still out there, we’re seeing more and more patients being verbally and even physically aggressive. I’ve been bitten, punched, hit, and it has really picked up recently. We shouldn’t have to deal with it as it can have a real morale hit, and that’s the last thing we need.”


“Covid stunned us all because we were seeing so many things we just weren’t seeing before – different illnesses, people in their 30s in cardiac arrest, and so much pressure. You come away from each shift and think, have I done everything right? There’s always a niggle in the back of your head, and my anxiety has gone through the roof the last two years. We’re lucky SCAS has a good set up for staff, with trauma management and counselling sessions in place. Like public support, it’s made a massive difference to me and my colleagues.”

Thanks to generous support from the British public, we have been able to allocate over £140 million to help NHS staff, volunteers and patients across the UK. Working with the network of 238 NHS charities across the UK, we’ve been able to fund more than 400 new projects specifically supporting NHS staff – including helplines, counselling, and dedicated psychological support for post-traumatic stress disorder – as well as community partnership projects that support the long-term recovery of the NHS.

Share a blue heart in your window or on social media, and show NHS workers you still care. For more information visit our #WithAllOurHearts campaign page.


  1. YouGov online survey of 1016 NHS employees in the UK, carried out online between 10-12 January 2022. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. The figures have been weighted and are representative of NHS employees by occupational group.
  2. YouGov online survey of 2132 UK adults, carried out online between 13-14 January 2022. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.
  3. YouGov online survey of 1008 NHS employees in the UK, carried out online between 12-17 August 2021. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all NHS employees by occupational group.


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