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Two thirds of NHS staff feel pressure to go to work despite illnesss


The NHS Staff Survey has revealed that 67 per cent of staff said they went to work when they were feeling unwell, with 91 per cent of those saying they put themselves under pressure to attend work when ill.

The 2009 survey, published by the Care Quality Commission, also found that 28 per cent felt under pressure from their manager to go to work, and 21 per cent said colleagues put pressure on them to attend.

The survey was completed by 55 per cent of the 290,000 staff invited to respond, and overall, this seventh NHS staff survey showed that 26 of its 40 key findings improved, two fell, eight remained unchanged, and four were new to the 2009 survey.

More NHS staff have said they have had training in infection control than in previous years, with 67 per cent of NHS staff saying they were given training in the last year, compared with 62 per cent last year, and 53 per cent two years ago.

There has also been a big rise in the availability of handwashing equipment, with 71 per cent of staff saying that hot water, soap and paper towels, or alcohol rubs, were ‘always’ available, compared with 61 per cent two years ago.

Fewer people said they had been forced to work extra hours and a smaller number reported they felt pressured or had been bullied in the workplace. However, almost half (46%) of those polled said they did not have enough time to do their job properly or were prevented from doing a proper job due to a lack of staff.

The report said that “there is still some way to go before all staff understand the vision for the NHS and before they are aware of the contribution they can make, both as individuals and as a trust”.


Readers' comments (11)

  • The government funds the NHS so why do they not delegate the necessities to promote a successful undertaking of the NHS?
    Who ever is behind the problems of the NHS, dont you think its time, we ask them (the people who control the NHS, Heads etc), if they really care?

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  • totally agree with the above and nurses do go into work when ill both for the warnings also not to let their colleagues down and end up working short staffed or sorry more short than they would have been if they had went into work

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  • I also agree with the above, as i know that i have gone into work unwell and returned early for sick. As i did not wnat to get warnings and reprimands.

    we work in environments where germs are found, i know with infection control it can be minimised but we after all are human beings................. though i think ppl miss that some times..................

    last year i had to go off with a nasty chest infection ( 2weeks) returned back to work way to early and ended up having a second bout off it a few weeks later........

    i also suffer from the occassional migrane which at times leads me to have time off as the get so bad i am unable to get out off bed.........

    and guess what i was send to Occi HEalth to see if they can help me i wonder how? can they stop my catching a cold??????????

    And yeah i felt bad leaving the ward more short staffed and at risk ..................

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  • I am at present in the situation mentioned above. In 08/09 I had several bouts of ill health (nothing to do with my lifestyle, which is very healthy). I was taken before personnel and 'advised' that the next time I was to be off sick I would receive a first warning. For the past 12 months I have ben reletivley free from sinus problems. Then this mid March (2010) I came doen with a severe cold, I really should have taken time of, but I self medicated and struggled on. Five weeks later, (this week) I had had enough, went to the emergency Dr. for a) sinusistus and a ? upper respirartory infection (Viral). I duly rang into work yesterday at the start of my shift. Was told I need a sick note and not given a chance to explain my illness. Both Snr and Jnr Sisters plus other staff knew of my state of health for the past five weeks. Message, if you are still able to stand, let alone hardley speak and are coughing all day and blowing your nose, then you are OK to work. And now we learn that the trust is to change, with the help of the Unions to amend the sickness and absence policy, because of the finances in the NHS. Please advise me as to WHO EXACTLY IS IN CHARGE OF THE NHS AND WHO IS CONSULTED OVER ISSUES THAT AFFECT THE GROUND FORCE?

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  • What do our representative bodies think of all this? I understand they are party to any change in trems, conditions and policy within employing trusts. Do the care commission make all there findings a matter that requires there response and views

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  • As long as trusts make sickness a disciplinary matter after a fixed number of absences, the pressure on staff to work whilst ill remains.

    A better policy would be to encourage staff to think of the effect on patients and support earlier treatment for a short absence rather than letting things build up and remove us from the job for longer.

    Of course, there will be the argument from those in charge that some people are 'conveniently sick' on a regular basis and that some see sickness as an extension of leave entitlement. We are all aware of people like this. BUT existing policies, if applied properly by managers, etc. were able to deal with this without penalising staff who were genuinely unlucky enough to have caught a couple of infections from patients they were treating in a short period and had the sense to take time off to prevent further spread of it.

    In these days of 'superbugs' it is more likely, not less, that the people who are most prone to Hospital Acquired Infections are the staff who are there every day. Exposure to infection on a daily basis is a part of our job and to some extent we resist it better but if we are already unwell when we go to work how vulnerable are we then?

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  • In all areas of the NHS people struggle into work feeling ill. It shouldn't happen. This means that if you have a virus you are putting patient's health and lives at risk; you are spreading your infection to other colleagues who then end up struggling to work so there is a cascade of illness; and you take longer to get better because you aren't getting the rest that the battling immune system demands. The introduction of the Bradford score is a farce too. You can have the same number of days off as your colleague but because you took more shorter periods of time by struggling in to work but another has had fewer longer periods off then you are carted off to occy health and reprimanded. Many times I've also had to work with migraine dosed up to my eyeballs barely functioning feeling sick and with difficulty doing anything even reading - is that safe?!!

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  • nurses expect and are expected to care for their patients with compassion. one would therefore assume that nurses are compasionate people. why is this compasion not extended to colleagues when they are sick instead of the total lack of understanding one often witnessess and even blame and bullying in far more cases than one would like to admit. if i see a sick or worried colleague i try to find out how i can help without making any judgments on them - i consider this part of my professional makeup and role as a nurse to extend my care to any fellow human beings and not just those stuck in a hospital bed on my own ward. when one is on the receiving end however this caring and compasionate attitude can be perceived in a totally different light with nurses acting totally indifferently to their colleagues or pronouncing judgements on others where they are not in possession of all the facts.

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  • I agree with above. Call this a caring profession?? Good lord! its laughable! what on earth are trusts doing encouraging people to go to work when they are ill?? I have never heard anything so ridiculous in my life? Why do they want bugs spread around people who are already immunodeficient due to illness?? Yes there are people who 'slack off' but most nurses don't.

    Its about time we started looking and supporting each other. Perhaps moral and ultimately patient care would improve. I have said it before and i will say it again. The best managers are those who work with their staff, have some understanding and give encouragement. Not point the finger of blame at the first opportunity!

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  • my career has been totally destroyed resulting in job loss by a total lack of understanding and support by my insensitive colleagues following bereavement after the loss of the only two members of my immediate family in quick sucession. i didn't ask for any sympathy but after returning to work, despite my deep sorrow andresultant concentration problems i was just expected to carry on as normal as if nothing had happened.I was severely reprimanded by a colleague for forgetting to order a drug for her patient whilst working alone on an extremely busy evening shift on a private medical ward so she would have it ready for use when she arrived the following morning. I offered to put this right immediately on arrival the next morning but was the subject of such verbal abuse by her and others that i felt more and more isolated and totally disillusioned by my colleagues who showed so much care and compassion to their patients but i suspect my case is not unique.

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