England NHS staff survey – what have we learnt?

By Alice Sorby, Employment Relations Advisor on 04 January 2019 Caring For You campaign

Last week the results of the 2018 England NHS staff survey were published. There is so much information in the survey that I won't attempt to address everything in one blog. Instead I want to focus on an area of real concern, the health and wellbeing of staff.


The survey asks whether staff feel their organisation takes positive action on health and wellbeing. When I filtered the results for midwives I saw that only 15.2% feel their organisation takes positive action, this is almost 5 percentage points lower than last year and is significantly lower than the all staff group figure. This figure has also fallen for health care assistants (which will include MSWs) to 33.2% this year.

There has been an increase in staff feeling unwell as a result of work related stress; over half of the midwives (51.6%) who responded had suffered work related stress. We have seen similar percentage increases for health care assistants to 39%.

I'm sure these figures won't come as a surprise to you, but they are a disappointment. We know that when employers support your physical and mental wellbeing that not only are you more likely to stay in your workplace and feel more motivated, care for women and their families also improves.

Stress can lead to depression, anxiety and physical health problems such as cardiovascular disease and joint and muscle problems. The Mental Health Foundation conducted a survey last year that showed almost three quarters (74%) of people have at some point felt so stressed that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. They have produced a great resource to help understand stress and actions that may help. You can access the report on their website here. If you are feeling overwhelmed please do seek professional help from a qualified health care professional.

Employers have a responsibility to address psychological hazards at work. The RCM welcomed the Health Secretary's recent announcement of a package of measures to support the mental health of staff including the introduction of Workforce Wellbeing Guardians. Root causes however must also be addressed; staff shortages and workload are clearly impacting on Midwives and MSWs. Despite the fact that 86% of UK maternity units have signed up to the RCM's Caring for You campaign charter clearly there is still work to be done. We will continue to embed the campaign with practical initiatives to help better support your health and wellbeing. You can find out from your local RCM branch and activists how they are supporting Caring for You locally and see the RCM website here.

Please do contact your local Workplace Representative if your unit hasn't signed up to the charter or if you want to find out more about the campaign and what the RCM is doing in your trust.

You can see the full results of the 2018 England NHS staff survey here where you can filter the results by various different factors including NHS trust. If you are an RCM Workplace Representatives this is a great source of information you can use to support you in your role.