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NHS managers 'concerned' about coalface morale

Concern about frontline staff morale has doubled in NHS finance managers, a new survey shows. 

Nearly half (47%) of trust finance directors surveyed for the King's Fund Quarterly Monitoring Report said staff morale is one of their top three concerns, twice as many in the previous quarter. 

Healthcare think tank the King's Fund stated this should be a "significant cause for concern" because of the close link between staff engagement and quality of care. 

But Royal College of Nursing (RCN) chief executive Dr Peter Carter said it is "no surprise" that staff morale is a major concern because of the huge pressures frontline staff are under, combined with years of pay restraint. 

"For too long, legitimate concerns over the working conditions and the stagnant pay of frontline NHS staff have been dismissed," said Dr Carter. 

"They've cared for record numbers of patients through the most disruptive reorganisation in the history of the NHS and in the face of huge workforce cuts. Nursing staff deserve to be valued and appreciated, but the government's refusal to give them a small cost of living increase, sends a very different message.

“It is no longer possible to dismiss these concerns - the leaders of the NHS acknowledge that unless NHS staff are paid competitive rates and are invested in, nurses will vote with their feet and leave the health service. Managers throughout the health service are recognizing the consequences that treating staff unfairly could have on patient care. The government must act on these concerns and take staff morale seriously.”

Dr Richard Murray, director of policy at The King's Fund said: "The NHS relies on the dedication of its staff, so the growing concern about staff morale is worrying. Given the close association between staff engagement and quality of care, this is a warning sign that should be taken seriously by NHS leaders."

Other findings from the report include: 

 - 84% of cancer patients received treatment within 62 days, missing the 85% target for six months in a row. 

 - monthly counts of MRSA, C difficile and other hospital-acquired infections remain low, although the number of cases of E-coli appears to be increasing the number of delayed transfers of care increased by 17.5% compared to the same period last year.

 - 5% of patients spent four or more hours in A&E over the quarter, the highest level at this time of year for a decade.