NHS staff say they are now happier and more likely to recommend their organisation as a place to work than last year, but too many still experience unacceptable abuse from patients and the public.
A spokesman for NHS England said 569,000 NHS employees across 300 separate organisations responded to this year’s NHS Staff Survey.
The results showed that more than one in four (28.5%) said they had experienced harassment, bullying or abuse from patients, relatives or members of the public.
While almost one in seven (14.9%) experienced physical violence, and almost 40,000 of those who responded (7.2%) said they faced discrimination from patients over the last year – up from 5.8% in 2015.
Racism was the most common form of discrimination, but 2019 also saw the highest levels of reported sexism and intolerance of religion and sexuality.
UNISON assistant general secretary, Christina McAnea, said: ‘Violence and harassment have become the new normal for NHS staff, which is beyond unacceptable.
‘Staff are overwhelmed and working in overcrowded departments, creating an unhealthy environment where these problems flourish.
‘No wonder more than two-fifths of staff feel unwell as a result of work stress.
‘Matt Hancock’s tough talk is welcome, but it comes many months after he promised to tackle violence. These figures show there’s been no noticeable change.
‘Morale shows little sign of improvement, which will do nothing to encourage despondent nurses and other health employees to stay in the NHS.
‘The NHS urgently needs more staff and a properly funded people plan to help solve its problems.’
The results also showed that staff morale has improved across the NHS. And staff reported that the quality of care in the NHS has improved over the last year, with more than seven in 10 saying they would recommend their organisation to their family and friends for treatment. A proportion that has increased every year for the past five years, according to NHS England.
More than four-fifths said they were happy with the quality of care they give to patients, and the proportion of staff saying they were able to deliver the care they aspire to was at its highest recorded level.
For the fifth year running, the percentage of staff reporting that their managers take a positive interest in their health and wellbeing rose, growing from 66% in 2015 to 70% last year, while more staff say they are satisfied with flexible working options, and fewer report working unpaid overtime.
The new figures come as NHS leaders confirmed that from April under NHS England’s new Standard Contract rules, NHS services will be able to protect staff by barring from non-emergency care any patient or visitor who inflicts discriminatory or harassing behaviour on staff.
Previously, individual NHS organisations could only refuse services to patients if they were aggressive or violent.
Prerana Issar, chief people officer for the NHS said: ‘Taking care of and valuing our staff is at the heart of our ambition to make the NHS the best place to work, so I am delighted that managers are increasingly taking an active interest in the health and wellbeing of their teams.
‘Creating a healthy, inclusive and compassionate culture is paramount to delivering the care patients expect.
‘It is not acceptable that our NHS people experience any form of discrimination from patients or the public at work. Our People Plan will set out what colleagues can expect from the NHS as a modern employer.’
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