71% of NHS trusts say many employees are struggling to get to work

A new survey by NHS Providers finds widespread recruitment and retention problems have been exacerbated by the cost of living crisis.

Tired nurse wears face mask blue uniform gloves sits on hospital floor. Essential worker feels burnout stress of corona virus frontline


Nurses are skipping meals to feed and clothe their children and NHS staff are finding it hard to make the journey to work due to the rising cost of living, according to a new survey.

The survey by NHS Providers, which represents NHS hospitals, mental health, community and ambulance services in England, found every trust which responded reported concerns about the mental, physical and financial wellbeing of staff as a result of the cost of living. Food banks and debt counselling are among ways trusts are helping staff to cope with financial hardship.

More than half (54%) of trusts responded to the survey, covering every region of England. It found that:

  1. 71% of trust leaders reported that many staff are struggling to afford to travel to work;
  2. 69% said the cost of living is having a ‘significant or severe’ impact on their ability to recruit lower-paid roles such as porters and healthcare assistants;
  3. 61% reported a rise in mental health sickness absence;
  4. 81% are ‘moderately or extremely’ concerned about staff’s physical health;
  5. 95% said that the cost of living increases had significantly or severely worsened local health inequalities;
  6. 72% said they have seen more people coming to mental health services due to stress, debt and poverty;
  7. 51% said they have seen an increase in safeguarding concerns as a result of people’s living conditions.

Two in three trust leaders reported a ‘significant or severe’ impact from staff leaving to work in sectors such as pubs, restaurants and shops for better pay, with both recruitment and retention being badly affected by soaring prices and bills. They fear winter cost of living increases will make a challenging winter even harder.

Calling for more co-ordinated national action, Miriam Deakin, interim deputy chief executive and director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers, said: “The rising cost of living is harming people’s health and widening health inequalities. Our survey reveals just what NHS staff are going through, on top of the psychological impact of the pandemic and high levels of work-related stress.

“Trusts have called it a ‘tipping point’ for the workforce. All NHS staff have been given below-inflation pay awards this year by the government, leaving them worse off in real terms.

“Trusts are vital hubs at the heart of their communities, ‘go to’ institutions where people seek help in difficult times, and are doing everything they can to support staff, patients and the public.

“But the cost of living pressures are too big and wide-ranging to be left to local NHS trusts to solve on top of everything else they are grappling with.

“We need realism from government and national leaders, and recognition of the scale of the challenge. The rising cost of living is adding to pressures as the NHS seeks to reduce care backlogs and trust leaders fear it will have long-lasting impacts on the health of the most deprived communities.”

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