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‘Over-stretched teams working in an under-staffed health service’ – The King’s Fund responds to latest NHS Staff Survey

Suzie Bailey, Director of Leadership and Organisational Development at The King’s Fund, commented on the results of the latest NHS Staff Survey

‘These findings paint a sobering picture of over-stretched teams working in an under-staffed health service. Staff shortages will be the rate-limiting factor in tackling the growing backlog of care so today’s Staff Survey results should ring alarm bells for a government that has pledged to bring down waiting times.

‘It is particularly worrying that nearly half of NHS staff now report that in the past 12 months they have felt unwell as a result of work-related stress. In addition, one-third of NHS staff now report often or always feeling burnt out. This is not just inefficient and damaging for staff, it has consequences for patients, as stressed and unwell staff are less able to deliver high-quality, safe care.

‘The figures also reveal a marked decline in the proportion of NHS employees who feel there are enough staff at their organisation for them to do their job properly, down to fewer than one in three. The workforce crisis is also recognised by the public, with separate survey data published today by The King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust showing that staff shortages are the second-most common reason for public dissatisfaction with the NHS. [1]

‘The NHS workforce crisis long pre-dates the Covid-19 pandemic, following years of poor planning, weak policy and fragmented responsibilities. The government has made pledges to recruit more NHS staff, but these are yet to be underpinned by a comprehensive workforce strategy. In fact, later today in the House of Commons the government will again seek to block efforts to force the publication of future health and care staffing projections [2]. 

‘NHS staff are the health service’s greatest asset, yet nearly one in five report being bullied by colleagues and nearly one in 10 experience discrimination at the hands of colleagues. NHS leaders should be seeking to create environments that enable staff to deliver the care they are passionately committed to offering. There are many examples of compassionate and inclusive cultures across the NHS, but sadly, today’s results show there is a long way to go.’

Notes to editors

For interview requests, please contact The King’s Fund press office on 07584 146035 (out of hours) or 

The 2021 NHS Staff Survey results are available from the NHS Staff Survey website

  1. The British Social Attitudes survey of public satisfaction with the NHS satisfaction survey has been published today, 30 March 2022. The results show that public satisfaction with the NHS is at a 25-year low. The main reason for dissatisfaction with the NHS overall was waiting times for GP and hospital appointments (65 per cent) followed by staff shortages (46 per cent) and a view that the government does not spend enough money on the NHS (40 per cent). Explore the full findings
  2. Later today (30 March 2022) MPs will debate the Health and Care Bill. The government is seeking to block efforts to require the regular publication of health and care workforce projections to make clear how many staff are needed. More information is available in The King’s Fund’s latest briefing on the Health and Care Bill. 

The King’s Fund is an independent charity working to improve health and care in England. We help to shape policy and practice through research and analysis; develop individuals, teams and organizations; promote understanding of the health and social care system; and bring people together to learn, share knowledge and debate. Our vision is that the best possible care is available to all. 

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