Three in ten NHS staff have taken time off for mental health, as NHS faces “overwhelming” winter challenges

On 1st November 2022
Categories: 2022

Three in ten (30%) of NHS staff have taken time off work for their mental health,1 new research from NHS Charities Together reveals.1 In the survey of over 1000 NHS workers, 83% said challenges facing the NHS this winter feel ‘overwhelming’. 

With colder months bringing greater numbers of colds, flu, and other respiratory illnesses, on top of increased falls, A&E admissions and vaccination rollouts, the winter months always take a toll on staff and services. However, speaking to the latest challenges, around 8 in 10 staff (79%) agree morale is currently ‘the lowest they have ever experienced’, with around half (49%) saying pressures are affecting their mental health. 

Carla Croft, 52, lives in West London and is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist at Barts Health NHS Trust. Using Barts Charity’s funding, the hospital established a Psychological Support Service for staff, where each site has been provided with a dedicated psychologist – a project which has recently been extended for another three years. 

Carla says:

“Within our first year, we had over 6,500 points of contact with staff members. Sadly, we know distress might become greater as time and pressures go on. For example, everyone is preparing for the pressures of winter that are expected to be particularly challenging this year. This is happening at a time when many staff are experiencing feelings of burnout and still recovering from the impact of the pandemic. Thankfully, staff are feeling increasingly safe to come forward saying, ‘I need support, I’m not okay’. Our support needs to be ongoing so, no matter what they face, staff feel supported and as if they are not facing these challenges alone.” 

As the national, independent charity caring for the NHS, we work with a network of 238 local NHS charities to fund vital support for the NHS workforce, including rest spaces, infrastructure and other mental health interventions at every hospital and health board in the UK.  

To date we have funded 400 staff projects supporting hundreds of thousands of workers facing anxiety (54%), exhaustion (49%), depression (24%) and more.1 But with 1.5 million staff in total there is still a significant amount to be done, and we are calling for support with an urgent winter appeal to bolster mental health provisions for the entire NHS workforce. 

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

“Strained clinics, growing waiting lists and a declining ability to provide first-class care are having a devastating impact on the mental health of our NHS workforce. Our research cements that as we enter the winter period these challenges will only intensify – made worse by a backdrop of political and economic turmoil.  

“The scale of the challenge facing the NHS is so huge it can’t handle everything alone. We work with NHS Trusts and their partner NHS charities to create life-changing mental health support for those who need it, so they can continue with the jobs they love. We’re doing all we can to increase the support available to staff, and are launching an urgent winter appeal so we can help them weather the storm this winter and beyond.” 

1 YouGov online survey of 1,004 NHS employees in the UK, carried out online between 11th – 17th October 2022. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. The figures have been weighted and are representative of NHS employees by occupational group.

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