Healthcare staff across the south 'exhausted and demoralised' as more than 75% of Portsmouth NHS workers report not having enough colleagues to do their jobs properly
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The latest NHS staff survey revealed just 24 per cent of Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust (PHU) workers agreed workforce levels were sufficient enough for them to do their jobs in 2021 – a drop from 34 per cent in 2020.
It also showed 45 per cent of staff had felt unwell as a result of work-related stress in the previous 12 months, while 33 per cent ‘often’ or ‘always’ felt burnt out because of their job.
Staff working for Solent NHS Trust shared similar concerns, with just 35 per cent of workers saying there were enough staff, down from 43 per cent the year before.
This reflected the picture across England as a whole, where 27 per cent of staff were happy with workforce levels at their organisation – a steep fall from 38 per cent in 2020.
Dr Sheila Marriott, interim regional director of the Royal College of Nursing in the south east, warned this was not a ‘quick fix’.
She said: ‘The number of nurses simply isn’t keeping pace with the demand. Nurses are exhausted and demoralised – imagine trying to look after patients when you don’t have enough colleagues to help you. Care can be left undone and patient safety may be compromised.
‘Hospitals and other care providers are working hard to recruit and retain enough nurses to fill the gaps, but they’ve been frustrated by the government ducking its responsibility to ensure a sufficient supply of staff for years. There isn’t a quick fix for this.
‘The government must commit to delivering and funding a workforce plan for the long term that guarantees there are enough nursing staff in the health and care system to provide patients with consistently safe and effective care.’
A separate study by Boyes Turner Claims, using freedom of information requests, found that more than 1,900 staff in the south east left the NHS between April and September in 2021 due to a poor work life balance.
Across the whole of England, 12,035 NHS staff resigned from their roles in that time for the same reason.
‘Better reward package’ and ‘lack of opportunities’ were also cited as reasons to quit.
Roger Batterbury, chairman of Healthwatch Portsmouth, said: ‘We are aware of the NHS vacancies and regularly get updates from our local health trusts on this matter. We know this is a nationwide issue and our local trusts have tried many innovative options to fill their vacancies.
‘Healthwatch Portsmouth is concerned about the morale of our local NHS staff who have continued to maintain their extremely high level of care and support to the people who need it. We get regular feedback though from staff who are concerned about the continuing staff vacancies in their services and the impact this can have on carers and patients.
‘We are aware that Health and Care Portsmouth (who plan and provide health and social care in the city) is currently looking into ways to solve the strains in the local system brought about by ongoing staff vacancies and will be keeping Healthwatch Portsmouth updated with their plans.’
The NHS staff survey also showed 68 per cent of PHU staff said that if a friend or relative needed treatment, they would be happy with the standard of care provided by their organisation.
This was down from 74 per cent from the year before, according to the report, which included responses from 3,998 staff at the trust.
Of the respondents at Solent, 82 per cent said that if a friend or relative needed treatment, they would be happy with the standard of care provided by their organisation – a drop from 84 per cent in 2020.
Nicole Cornelius, chief people officer at PHU told The News: ‘The last two years of the pandemic has been tough on all NHS staff and this is reflected in the results of the 2021 national staff survey across the NHS. The NHS has been stretched and staff have been under huge pressure to care for more patients and that demand for our care continues to grow. However, the number of staff recommending the trust as a place for treatment was above the national average.
‘We already have a clear focus on helping staff to look after their health and wellbeing including refreshed breakout rooms, access to a pool and gym and free counselling support. We have also set up several new feedback channels for staff to ensure we can hear regularly how it feels to work at the trust and support for help teams make changes and deliver improvements in their departments.
‘Staffing levels are challenging across the NHS and alongside our focus on health and wellbeing for staff, we will be launching a range of recruitment campaigns to attract more people to come and join the PHU team.’
And Andrew Strevens, acting chief executive at Solent NHS Trust, added: ‘In another challenging year for the NHS I am proud to see how our people continue to put patients first, despite continued pressures and that is testament to their hard work, resilience and dedication.
‘Whilst our latest staff survey results are very positive and demonstrate we are living the NHS People Promise, as a learning organisation we are always looking to improve the experiences of staff at work. We acknowledge there is more to be done in best supporting all colleagues. Some of the areas in which we will be focusing our attention on include helping employees when facing conflicting demands and best managing time pressures.
‘We continue to build a values-based, people-centred organisation in which our people can thrive and do their best work.’
It comes as The News has reported a ‘serious’ situation at QA Hospital in Portsmouth, with up to 600 staff off sick on April 1 and 283 beds occupied by Covid patients.