The government must translate praise for NHS staff into practical support and investment to help them recover Health Foundation response to the NHS Staff Survey 2020 and NHS England’s monthly performance statistics

11 March 2021

Responding to the NHS Staff Survey 2020 and NHS England’s monthly NHS performance statistics, Dr Jennifer Dixon, Chief Executive of the Health Foundation, said: 

‘With hospitals inundated by a surge in patients with COVID-19 this January, progress made in reopening other NHS services has slowed. Despite the huge success of the vaccination programme, the backlog of unmet need is growing with over 300,000 patients now waiting longer than a year for hospital treatment. 

‘Today's figures show that, even before the second wave, NHS staff were stressed and exhausted. Over a third had worked on a COVID ward, and nearly half reported being unwell due to work-related stress. With increasing dissatisfaction with pay, and significant staff shortages, skimping on salaries is likely to be a false economy. The government must translate the praise it heaps on NHS staff into practical support and investment to help them recover. 

‘The government and NHS leaders will now need to be clear with the public about how they intend to deal with the backlog of unmet need, as well as achieve the ambitions to modernise care set out in the NHS long term plan. This will need significant investment at the next Spending Review, in particular if we are to see improvement on waiting lists and plugging staff shortages, which are holding back progress.’ 

Further information

  • By the end of January 2021, 304,044 patients had already waited longer than 52 weeks to begin treatment. This is an increase from 224,205 in December 2020 and the highest number since January 2008. 
  • At the start of the pandemic, NHS wages were £600 per employee lower in real terms than in 2011/12. On average, NHS staff earnings have risen by just 1.5% a year since 2011/12, below inflation which averaged 1.8% a year.  

Notes on the staff survey results  

  • Fieldwork for the 2020 NHS staff survey was carried out between September and November 2020   
  • 34.2% of staff have worked on a COVID-19 specific ward or area at anytime  
  • 44% of staff reported feeling unwell as a result of work-related stress (increased from 40.3% in 2019) and the highest result over the past five years  
  • 49.6% of staff who have worked on a COVID-19 specific ward or area reported feeling unwell as a result of work-related stress  
  • 36.7% of staff were satisfied with their level of pay (38% in 2019)  
  • 31.6% of staff who have worked on a COVID-19 specific ward or area reported were satisfied with their level of pay  

Media contact

Simon Perry
020 7257 2093

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