The public aren’t very happy with the NHS according to a survey published last week, and now, it seems, neither are its staff.
Well I bet none of your jaws dropped reading that. It’s hardly surprising that against a backdrop of cuts, concern over pensions and the introduction of a Health and Social Care Act regarded by some as savaging the NHS that nurses, doctors and other staff aren’t laughing all the way to collect their (frozen) pay cheques.
Nursing Times has obtained a survey on NHS staff views commissioned by the government. It reveals nurses in acute care who, despite feeling satisfied with the NHS service delivery in their local area, were most likely to feel that the NHS was under-resourced (at 82%). And they felt that services would continue to decline over the next few years.
And this is the figure from the survey to which we should pay closest attention, because this is the group that’s on the frontline, seeing first hand how cuts are affecting patients and their families every day. If anyone knows what’s going on - and going wrong - it’s these nurses. Up to their eyeballs in work, and struggling to cover roles that aren’t being replaced, these are the ones having to make excuses to a patient’s daughter about why her mother hasn’t been helped with her meal, or who struggle to get someone’s granddad to the toilet in time. If they think the NHS is under-resourced, then it is. If they report that the standard of care has got worse and will get worse, they’re right there, so they’re right.
Yet despite the desperation, health service staff continue to be resilient. Of those surveyed, 89% still claim to be proud to work in the NHS. But that pride is for what it was and what it should stand for. And not what it will be if cuts continue to pull standards down.
As efficiency savings cut into frontline services and patient safety and quality become the sacrificial lamb, it will be hard for nurses and allied health professionals to hold onto that pride.
And that isn’t just bad for them, it’s bad for patients.
Happy staff make for more productive and efficient workplaces. The misery imposed by cutting costs is not only tying staff’s hands behind their backs in practical terms, it has a psychological impact too. It’s making them frustrated, unhappy and disengaged. Unless something changes, next year’s surveys around staff - and patient - satisfaction could make for even more uncomfortable reading.
- Don’t forget to enter the Nursing Times Awards, the entry deadline is 29 June. See ntawards.co.uk