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Nurses ‘wrung dry’ by Covid pressures, warns union

Nurses ‘wrung dry’ by Covid pressures, warns union

More than two-thirds of healthcare staff including nurses have experienced burnout because of pressures during the Covid-19 pandemic, a survey published today has found.

The union Unison polled 10,566 healthcare workers across England, Wales and Scotland – including 1,817 registered nurses or midwives, 1,520 primary care staff and 946 community staff – between 8 October and 29 October this year.

It found 69% of participants said they experienced burnout, 62% said they felt overwhelmed and 51% were covering extra shifts because of staff shortages.

Unison warned the situation could worsen as more staff go off sick or into isolation after contracting Covid-19. The NHS could also be left in a ‘perilous state’ if workers quit, it added, with 57% surveyed thinking of leaving and 54% of these actively looking to leave.

The top reason that participants listed for wanting to quit was the negative impact the work had on their mental health, with 67% identifying it as the problem. Pay not reflecting the jobs they do is cited by 59% and the lack of support from managers by 53%.  

Four in 10 (40%) said they have taken time off for their mental health during the pandemic. Although 26% sought help through their employer, 46% didn’t feel they got the help they needed.   

The survey also revealed 67% of respondents are concerned about the scale of the pandemic-related backlog and its impact on their workload. More than half (57%) regularly work beyond their contracted hours, while 21% do so two or three times a week and 14% every shift.

More than four in 10 (46%) of the respondents added that they feel guilty that those using health services are not getting the quality of care they need and deserve.  

Sara Gorton, Unison head of health, said: ‘Staff have been wrung dry by pandemic pressures. Now they’re going through another wave as Omicron surges.   

‘Many are covering the shifts of poorly colleagues and feeling guilty they can’t provide quality care to patients. Overwhelmed and exhausted staff are suffering panic attacks and feeling anxious they’ll catch Covid again. It’s all taking a toll.’

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