Burnout among nurses hits ’emergency’ levels with staff facing ‘excessive workloads’, warn MPs

Rota gaps force staff to struggle with “chronic excessive workloads” which are only further exacerbated by staff leaving the NHS to escape the pressures.

Matt Bodell
8 June 2021
Nurse sat on floor next to hosptial bed.

The report admits that poor pay could also contribute to stress and burnout in health and care.

Burnout amongst nurses and other allied healthcare professionals has reached “emergency” levels and many staff are being forced to work under chronically “excessive workloads”, according to a new report.

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A new report by the Commons’ Health and Social Care Committee, chaired by former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, shines a light on the impact the pandemic has had on an already overstretched workforce.

The committee said that rota gaps forced staff to struggle with “chronic excessive workloads” which are only further exacerbated by staff leaving the NHS to escape the work pressures.

Although pay and reward were not the focus of the report, the report does admit that poor pay could also contribute to stress and burnout in health and care.

The committee said that while the pandemic had “exacerbated existing problems with staff welfare”, it had also “brought some benefits, including higher levels of recognition and different ways of working.”

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The report suggests a “total overhaul” of workforce planning including a move towards a more transparent process alongside recommending changes to improve workplace culture.

Not a new problem.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) told the committee that the UK had 50,000 vacancies across the NHS and nearly a quarter of nurses were considering quitting.

RCN acting Chief Executive and General Secretary Pat Cullen said that it was not a new problem and cracks started to appear several years ago.  She said; “The unprecedented demand on nursing staff during the pandemic has had a huge impact on their own wellbeing.

“But, as this report shows, the cracks in the systems designed to look after nursing staff appeared years ago.

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Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) Chief Executive and Registrar Andrea Sutcliffe CBE warned that nurse’s mental health and wellbeing was “one of the top reasons given by nursing and midwifery professionals for leaving the NMC register”.

UNISON General Secretary Christina McAnea added that health and care staff are at “breaking point” and suggested that urgent reform to pay and conditions were needed.  She said; “The prime minister must act now to award a pay rise that allows the NHS to attract new people and stops the exodus of existing staff.

“A complete overhaul of wages is also vital in social care. This must include the introduction of proper sick pay.”

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