Staff “burnout” with staff in the NHS and social care in England has reached an “emergency” level and risks the future of the health service, MPs have warned.
A highly damning report said workers were exhausted and overstretched because of staff shortages.
It said the problems existed before the pandemic, although coronavirus has worsened the pressures.
The report gathered various data from NHS surveys and evidence given to a committee of MPs at an inquiry, highlighting the issues regarding staff shortages; the impact of workforce burnout; workplace culture; impact of Covid-19 on burnout; and workforce planning.
In the report, ‘Workforce burnout and resilience in the NHS and social care’, the committee said the absence of a ‘People Plan’ for social care is widening the disparity in recognition and support for the social care components of health and social care.
The report notes a Skills for Care estimate in October 2020 that put the staff turnover rate in the adult social care sector at 30.4 per cent in 2019-20, equivalent to around 430,000 people leaving their jobs, and the the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) told MPs that, prior to the onset of the pandemic, there were 50,000 nursing vacancies in the UK.
In the report, the MPs said: “The emergency that workforce burnout has become will not be solved without a total overhaul of the way the NHS does workforce planning.
“After the pandemic, which revealed so many critical staff shortages, the least we can do for staff is to show there’s a long-term solution to those shortages, ultimately the biggest driver of burnout.”
The MPs said that, while issues such as excessive workloads may not be solved overnight, staff should be given the confidence that a long-term solution is in place.
“The way that the NHS does workforce planning is at best opaque and at worst responsible for the unacceptable pressure on the current workforce which existed even before the pandemic,” the study said.
Workforce burnout across the NHS and care systems now presents an extraordinarily dangerous risk to the future functioning of both services,’ said Jeremy Hunt MP, committee chair.
‘An absence of proper, detailed workforce planning has contributed to this, and was exposed by the pandemic with its many demands on staff. However, staff shortages existed long before Covid-19.’
As suggested by The King’s Fund research, NHS staff were 50% more likely to experience high levels of work-related stress compared to the general working population.
Professor Michael West of the King’s Fund, explained to the Committee: “The danger is that we do not see it. It is like the pattern on the wallpaper that we no longer see, but it is the No. 1 predictor of staff stress and staff intention to quit.”
“It is also the No. 1 predictor of patient dissatisfaction. It is highly associated with the level of errors.Unless we have a well worked-out plan for how we can fill all the vacancies and reduce the attrition rate of staff in the NHS we are going to be in trouble”
Responding to the report Cllr David Fothergill, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:
“Social care staff have been on the frontline throughout the pandemic, doing everything they can to protect people of all ages from the dreadful effects of coronavirus.
“Despite their extraordinary endeavours, this report rightly highlights we still face a huge recruitment and retention crisis in social care, with more than 100,000 vacancies available on any given day and extremely high turnover rates.
“Social care deserves parity of esteem with the NHS and action is desperately needed for the care workforce including on pay, conditions, professionalisation, skills and training.
“All of those who work in and draw upon social care need a sustainable, long-term funding solution to how we provide care and support, which allows people to live the lives they want to lead. We urge government to bring forward its proposals as soon as possible and before the summer parliamentary recess.”