NHS and social care staff burnout ‘threatens future of services’

A parliamentary report calls for a complete overhaul of workforce planning in health and social care to address burnout.

Woman in bed with ventilator and nurse in PPE


Workforce burnout in the NHS and social care is an ‘extraordinarily dangerous risk to the future functioning of both services’, according to a Select Committee report.

The report by the Health and Social Care Select Committee says that, even before the pandemic, one third of the doctors who responded to a survey published by the BMJ in January 2020 were described as burned out, with those in emergency medicine and general practice most impacted. Covid has made that much worse and has revealed many critical staff shortages.

The report says 92% of trusts told NHS Providers they had concerns about staff wellbeing, stress and burnout following the pandemic. Witnesses told the Committee of their worry about the “exhaustion of large groups of staff”. In social care, the report says workers faced “heartbreak” at the excess deaths of those for whom they were caring, coupled with a sense of feeling “abandoned” as the focus early in the pandemic had been on the NHS.

The report says workforce planning needs a complete overhaul to address long-term staff shortages, the biggest driver of burnout. It calls on the Government to ensure Health Education England to publish objective, transparent and independent annual reports on workforce shortages and future staffing requirements that cover the next five, 10 and 20 years, including an assessment of whether sufficient numbers are being trained. It says such workforce projections should also cover social care. These should be detailed plans for each specialism and the report says they should take into account not just anticipated demand, but also the labour market and that they should also make clear the cost of not training, employing and retaining sufficient numbers of staff.

The report says the way that the NHS does workforce planning “is at best opaque and at worst responsible for the unacceptable pressure on the current workforce which existed even before the pandemic”, with planning being led by funding rather than demand and the capacity needed to service that demand.


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