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Vast majority of healthcare leaders fear staff will be ‘pushed beyond limits’



Healthcare staff are close to burnout after months of physical and psychological pressure, according to trust leaders.

A survey of 140 leaders from English NHS trusts and foundation trusts, published by umbrella-group NHS Providers yesterday, found 99% believed staff were reaching their ‘limits of endurance’ because of Covid-19.

Trust bosses also believed workforce shortages, the impact of winter and the need to restore services disrupted by the crisis would worsen the strain as the pandemic continues.

NHS providers chief executive Chris Hopson said that Covid-19 ‘took its toll’ on ‘staff who gave who so much’, with many ‘exhausted’ and some ‘traumatised’.

He continued: ‘Now with the new surge in Covid-19, looming winter pressures, and continuing severe staff shortages, it’s clear from our survey that trust leaders are deeply concerned for their workforce.

‘The worry is that the sustained physical, psychological and emotional pressure on health staff is threatening to push them beyond their limits of endurance.’

The survey, which was open during August, also revealed that 94% of leaders were extremely or moderately concerned about the impact of seasonal pressures during winter on the trust and local area.

In addition, over half (56%) expressed frustration over a lack of support from the government to deliver a sustainable service, while 83% were worried that investment in social care was insufficient in their area.

However, most (68%) leaders said the quality of care in their local area was high or very high, and that collaboration across different organisations to improve patient services has increased during the pandemic.

A leader at a combined community and mental health trust, in the Midlands, warned: ‘Staff are tired and have been working at full pace since March. There is a huge amount of anxiety relating to Covid. In addition, we need more workforce to meet the targets and manage over winter who are simply not out there.’

But they also noted: ‘There are so many things that I am proud of. The most powerful experience for me has been how NHS staff from all services and organisations have worked together do try and do their best for patients.’

RCN chief executive Dame Donna Kinnair said: ‘Government must act now to deliver the nursing staff needed. There has been investment in beds and buildings but whether hospitals are rebuilt or wholly new, they will struggle to provide safe and effective patient care without enough nurses.’

Nursing in Practice took an in depth look at the impact of Covid-19 on nurses’ and healthcare staff mental health last month.