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Take a look at a selection of our recent media coverage:

New report calls for priority investment in NHS staff mental health and wellbeing

11th December 2023

A new report from the British Psychological Society (BPS) is urging the Government to commit to further long-term funding for NHS staff mental health and wellbeing services, calling it ‘fundamental‘ for workforce retention, the delivery of the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, and protecting patient care.

The BPS ‘Learning from the NHS Staff Mental Health and Wellbeing Hubs‘ report highlights the need for standards for staff mental health provision, amid concerns that staff struggling with their mental health could face a postcode lottery to access the support they need from a dwindling number of NHS Staff Mental Health and Wellbeing Hubs.

Set up in February 2021 to provide health and social care staff with rapid access to mental health support, ring-fenced Government funding for NHS Staff Mental Health and Wellbeing Hubs ended in March 2023, with integrated care systems (ICSs) either identifying short-term interim funding for their Hub for a defined period of time, or closing them.

The report highlights a data analysis from the Nuffield Trust showing six million sick days recorded for NHS staff due to anxiety, stress, depression and other psychiatric illnesses in 2022, with sickness absence associated with a higher likelihood of staff leaving the NHS.

And the same Nuffield analysis revealed that a consultant missing three days of work for mental health reasons is 58% more likely to leave three months later.

Further figures outlined in the BPS report showed demand for NHS Staff Mental Health and Wellbeing services is increasing.

Data from one hub recorded 404 people registering for one-to-one support between July 2023 and September 2023 – a 65% increase on the same period in the previous year during which 245 referrals were made – with one in five of those accessing one-to-one support identified as senior leaders.

BPS says its report aims to support health and care leaders make ‘crucial decisions‘ about future investment in local mental health and wellbeing services for their teams.

It cites evidence of the cost benefits for investment in mental health and wellbeing that shows an investment of £80 per member of staff in mental health support can achieve net gains of £855 a year through savings from absenteeism and presenteeism.

Noting ‘more than 121,000 unfilled jobs across the NHS in England today‘, Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said: ‘Heavy workloads and huge pressure on stretched services are leading to lots of staff feeling worn out. The effects of financial pressures on trusts and the cost of living crisis on staff amid the longest period of industrial action in the history of the NHS’ history have compounded problems of high staff turnover.‘

As a result, the report makes a series of recommendations, including that:

  • ICSs provide long-term, ring-fenced funding for evidence-based, psychologically-led staff mental health and wellbeing services, complemented by further ring-fenced funding from the Department of Health and Social Care
  • NHS England develop national service standards for psychologically informed staff mental health wellbeing provision, including impact and evaluation measures
  • ICSs evolve and build upon existing NHS Staff Mental Health and Wellbeing Hubs infrastructure to support system-wide priorities and requirements.

Dr Roman Raczka, president-elect of the BPS, said: ‘The ambitious measures set out in the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan are not a quick fix.

‘Existing and future staff members deserve to work in an environment that gives them the support they need, to provide the safe, high-quality care they as health and care professionals are proud to give.

‘Put simply, NHS and social care employers cannot afford to ignore the mental health needs of their workforce, if they wish to create a system that’s fit for the future.‘

Soaring absences for staff sickness adding to burden on the NHS, analysis shows

4th July 2023

The NHS in England saw 27 million days lost to staff sickness absences in 2022 – equivalent to losing 74,500 full-time staff, including 2,900 doctors and 20,400 nurses, across the year, a new analysis has shown.

The briefing paper published by the Nuffield Trust for the BBC, which analysed NHS Digital staff sickness data, warned the number of staff absences within the health service reached ‘unprecedented and sustained’ highs between January and December 2022.

Staff sickness absences increased by 29% in 2022 compared to 2019, which equalled an average of 17,000 additional staff off sick on each day.

It added that the NHS in England was now facing ‘a new normal of sickness absence’ in hospitals and community services, as staff sickness soared post-pandemic.

‘This increasing burden of sickness absence is thought to be contributing to higher costs and disruption for NHS providers, fuelling additional stress for remaining staff, and is a major push factor for staff leaving, leading to further disruption for patients and services,’ those behind the paper said.

Dr Billy Palmer, senior research fellow at the Nuffield Trust, said that the health services was ‘grappling with a difficult new normal when it comes to staff sickness leave’.

He added: ‘The increasing numbers taking time away from work feeds into a seemingly unsustainable cycle of increased work leading to burnout and then more people choosing to leave.’

Absences for anxiety, stress and burnout

While respiratory illness and infections conditions remained common reasons for sickness absence, in 2022 the NHS lost around six million days due to anxiety, stress and burnout, accounting for a quarter of all sick days.

Indeed, this analysis of NHS data adds to a wide pool of evidence that NHS staff are increasingly suffering from work-related stress. In the NHS annual staff survey, over half (57%) of staff reported going into work despite not feeling well.

Latest census data from the Federation of the Royal Colleges of the Physicians in the UK showed that one in five (19%) of consultant physicians are at risk of burnout.

And a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies in August 2022 looking at staff retention in the NHS acute sector showed that compared to those that have not had absences, an NHS consultant missing three days of work for mental health reasons is 58% more likely to leave three months later.

Health reasons are increasingly a cause for staff to leave the NHS, with the Nuffield Trust highlighting that the number of NHS staff pointing to health as the reasons for leaving their role has more than tripled in the decade to 2022. This includes an increase of 52% since 2019. 

Importance of health and wellbeing

Meanwhile, the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, published on Friday, said that ‘significant workforce shortages and rising demand for care are increasingly stretching NHS staff’ and that ‘we are seeing more staff absent from work due to mental ill health than ever before’.

The plan outlines a host of measures focusing on training, retention and reform to tackle the issue of understaffing and support the wellbeing of NHS employees, which it hopes will shore up the workforce and reduce absences.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘We are hugely grateful to NHS staff for their hard work and their health and wellbeing is of paramount importance.’

The spokesperson insisted that the NHS absence data analysed by the Nuffield Trust is ‘not necessarily representative of a broader trend, given the unprecedented impact of the Covid pandemic’.

They added: ‘For those staff that need it the NHS provides physical and mental health support – including targeted psychological support and treatment.’

A version of this story was originally published by our sister publication Nursing in Practice.