A newly released survey of NHS consultants indicates that the whole service is facing a dramatic exodus of senior hospital doctors.
Figures derived from the survey indicated that as many as 80 per cent of senior doctors in the National Health Service may consider retiring early due to work-related stress.
The prominent medical figures even indicated that conditions in the NHS where so pressurised that numerous physical effects where manifesting in their everyday lives.
These included sleepless nights, marital breakups and illness such as ulcers, anxiety and even strokes.
It is clear from the survey that a vast number of senior NHS consultants are suffering from burnout, and this extreme tiredness is beginning to impact negatively on their life as a whole.
A natural knock-on effect of this particular phenomenon is that frontline services are being directly challenged.
The escalating pressure evident in the NHS has resulted in numerous negative consequences, including logjams of demand, an excessive long-hours culture, and increasing pressure to meet targets.
Research which led to these conclusions was carried out by the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA).
The HCSA interviewed 817 experienced hospital doctors, and found that 81 per cent of them stated that they had at least considered retiring earlier than planned as a direct result of work pressures.
Burnout, low morale and increasing stress were all incredibly common side-effects of the situation in the NHS, and the survey painted an extremely worrying picture of the overarching culture in the health service.
While the evidence provided by the survey is worrying enough in itself, the data will also be seen in the context of the recent government plan to create a so-called seven-day culture in the NHS.
Already there has been scepticism in some quarters that the scheme is even remotely practical, and this latest survey will only exacerbate concerns about Prime Minister David Cameron’s scheme.
Speaking on behalf of the HCSA, Eddie Saville, the HCSA’s general secretary, indicated that the data acquired in the survey was extremely worrying.
“The number of consultants that are considering retiring early is staggeringly high and a big worry for the NHS. The NHS could be left without enough consultants and the remaining consultants would then be spread too thinly,” stated Saville.
In addition, Saville also suggested that staffing and recruitment issues would naturally be negatively affected by the problems indicated in the survey.
“If experienced consultants are bringing forward their retirement age because they are burned out, the loss of that amount of skill and expertise will have an impact on recruitment and retention of existing staff, and inescapably an impact on patient care,” added Saville.
With the research also indicating that 80 per cent of senior doctors work longer than their contracted hours on a regular basis, and half of this number reportedly do so on a permanent basis, the issues facing the health service are brought sharply into focus.
NHS staff are experiencing increasing pressure but remain positive about the work they do and the standard of service they provide, according to the results of the 2014 NHS Staff Survey published by NHS England today (24 February).
A total of 255,000 NHS staff members took part in the confidential survey which considered 29 key measures and indicators.
Some of the key findings of the survey include: (i) two thirds (67 per cent) of staff said they thought patient care was the top priority for their organisation; (ii) three quarters of staff reported that patient experience measures are collected in their organisation and 50 per cent said such feedback is used to improve patient care; (iii) two thirds (68 per cent) of staff feel able to contribute to improvements; and (iv) two thirds (68 per cent) of staff would feel safe to raise concerns.
“This national survey is a great tool to listen to NHS staff – one of the most dedicated staff groups in the country – and translate their views into tangible improvements to work environments”, said Neil Churchill, Director of Patient experience at NHS England. “This is vital because we know that better staff experience means better care for patients.
“However, the national averages mask striking differences in staff experience between different hospitals and other NHS employers. It is vital that NHS organisations take ownership of their data and act on the results – all feedback becomes positive when it is used as a tool for improvement.”
NHS England has advised that the results of the NHS Staff Survey should be used in conjunction with the Staff Friends and Family Test to keep up-to-date records of staff attitudes and views.
More information is available on the NHS England website.