Three in four NHS staff struggled with their mental health in the past year

On 17th April 2024
Categories: 2024

The NHS is one of UK’s most loved institutions, yet it is facing ongoing challenges and needs our continued support now more than ever.

The results of a new survey of more than 1000 NHS staff* show that over three in four (76%) NHS staff said they have experienced a mental health condition in the last year. In addition, more than one in two (52%) reported experiencing anxiety and a similar proportion (51%) had struggled with low mood. Over two in five (42%) respondents said they’d experienced exhaustion and three in five (60%) said they were worried about their colleagues’ mental health.

Despite the challenges they face, NHS staff remain loyal. Over two in three (68%) said they are unlikely to leave the NHS within the next 12 months, and almost four in five (79%) of NHS healthcare professionals feel proud to work for the NHS.

Far from being a seasonal issue, ‘winter pressures’ are felt by NHS staff all year round. A huge 96% of NHS staff surveyed said they believed that pressure on NHS services is growing. Faced with the responsibilities of saving lives, high workload, long and unsociable hours and exposure to traumatic events, it’s no surprise that many NHS staff are struggling with their mental health.

These findings confirm how vital it is to prioritise mental wellbeing of the NHS workforce so that they can continue to deliver the best care for their patients.

The survey also found:

  • Over two in three (69%) say morale is the lowest they have ever experienced
  • Seven in 10 (70%) say stress at work has negatively impacted their mental health in the workplace in the last year.

Donations to our Covid Appeal enabled County Durham and Darlington NHS Trust Charity to fund a peer-to-peer support system for the Trust’s staff.

Pat Chambers, Charity Development Manager at County Durham and Darlington NHS Trust Charity, said:

“During the pandemic, many staff were affected mentally and emotionally. The extra support from NHS Charities Together enabled us to fund wellbeing spaces, equipment and food and drink for staff, who were working exhausting shifts in the constraints of PPE.

“We also received funding for the Trauma Risk Management (TRiM) project. TRiM is a trauma-focused peer support system helping to prevent extreme trauma and PTSD – similar to interventions delivered for service personnel returning from conflict zones. Funding enabled us to recruit 53 staff volunteers to be trained in providing peer support and interventions.  We also funded a staff choir, which was a great outlet for staff and even saw us recording a single during lockdown, which hugely boosted morale.

“The unique challenges of the job means many NHS staff still face mental health challenges today, and the extra support is still needed, allowing us to promote wellbeing across our workforce and therefore ultimately continue to support the delivery of safe, compassionate and quality patient care.”

Hannah Canning is the Health and Wellbeing Coordinator at North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust. Her role is fully funded by NHS Charities Together, through the North West Anglia Hospitals’ Charity, and was created to support frontline workers in the hospital.

She said:

“Thanks to the funding from NHS Charities Together, I’m able to support the wellbeing and mental health of staff in the hospital. I’m focusing on individual and team wellbeing and encouraging breaks and rest – considering all things that affect staff while they are on shift. Using this funding, we are able to go ‘over and above’ to support our staff.”

Steph Gorman is an intensive care nurse at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London.

She said:

“I’m passionate about my work as a nurse. It’s hard, and I’ve had my struggles, but despite everything, it’s still one of the best jobs in the world. In the past, I’ve needed to seek help and started one-to-one counselling sessions at the hospital, which was really beneficial.

“Working as a nurse is still incredibly challenging. It’s so vital that we continue to invest in NHS staff mental health. NHS Charities Together have funded wellbeing zones at the hospital, just one example of the types of measures that really help make a difference.”

Adam Kay is an author, comedian and former doctor, whose number-one bestselling book and multi-BAFTA-winning TV show, This is Going to Hurt, provided an insight into the often funny but harrowing daily life of a junior doctor.

Adam said:

“These figures sadly come as no surprise at all. I know from my own experience just how hard NHS staff work, day-in, day-out, and the mental toll that routinely takes. We are uniquely privileged to have the NHS and should be proud of the wonderful people who sacrifice so much and go so far beyond the call of duty to look after us when we need it. But they desperately need support too, which is why I’m very proud to get behind NHS Charities Together’s Support Goes Both Ways campaign.”

Ellie Orton OBE, CEO of NHS Charities Together, said:

“Staff working within the NHS do a hugely challenging job every day, often dealing with traumatic events most of us would never encounter. The majority of NHS staff love doing the job they do, and both NHS staff and the general public feel proud of our NHS. But the nature of the work can have a detrimental impact on their mental health, and stigma can prevent them talking about it. Many NHS Trusts are already doing what they can to prioritise the mental health and wellbeing of our NHS staff, but it doesn’t go far enough. We will continue to work closely with NHS England and across the UK to ensure the additional support we provide for NHS staff has the most impact.

“NHS Charities Together already funds extra support such as counselling, green spaces, helplines and wellbeing zones and we’re launching Our Support Goes Both Ways campaign to raise awareness that while those who work for the NHS have a duty to care and protect us all, we all have a responsibility to make sure those who work for the NHS are looked after too.”

*Healthcare Professional sample: Total sample size was 1078 NHS staff. Fieldwork was undertaken between 13th – 19th February 2024.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all NHS staff by occupational group.

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