Secret Life Of The NHS: 18 Things You Didn't Know About Working For Britain's Healthcare Army

27/02/2016 08:35 | Updated 27 February 2016

Amid the heated dispute between Jeremy Hunt and junior doctors, it's easy to forget the work of hundreds of thousands of other NHS staff that continues around the clock.

A new survey of 300,000 of them gives a frank picture of what it's truly like to work for the UK's biggest employer, which has some 1.4 million staff.

It offers "unparalleled insight" into the experiences of staff, according to Chris Graham, the chief investigator from healthcare research company the Picker Institute.

People working across 297 different health organisations in England - from nurses to scientists and psychologists to paramedics, took part in the 2015 NHS Staff Survey.

junior doctors

The survey is the largest ever collection of feedback on working for the NHS in England

The results have already prompted calls for action on bullying, harassment and understaffing - but there are also some remarkably positive findings: NHS workers love their jobs, and they are seeing fewer mistakes from their colleagues than ever.

But the pressures are evident: a shocking proportion have been attacked by patients or staff, and a third would not trust the individual organisation they work in to care for a friend or relative.

These 18 facts reveal the highs and lows of working for the UK's largest, and perhaps most cherished, employer:

  • 1 They really like their jobs
    LEON NEAL via Getty Images
    Over half of all staff (58%) said that they 'often' or 'always' look forward in going to work. Nearly three quarters (74%) feel enthusiastic about their job, and even more (78%) feel time flies by when they are at work. 59% said they would recommend their organisation as a place to work, and an impressive 80% agreed that they were able to do their job to a standard they are "personally pleased with".
  • 2 They believe they can change things
    More than half of NHS staff (56%) said they are able to make improvements happen in the area they work in.
  • 3 They are seeing fewer mistakes than ever
    Adrian Peacock via Getty Images
    Despite the pressure on NHS staff, the proportion who said they have witnessed errors is the lowest it has been since 2011. 17% of staff reported seeing a mistake incident that could have harmed staff, and with a quarter of staff (25%) saw an error that could have harmed patients. Most (89%) of staff who had witnessed an error said it had been reported.
  • 4 They aren’t sure they make a difference
    Image taken by Mayte Torres via Getty Images
    Only 43% of staff agreed that their role makes a difference to patients. Nearly half (49%) said they neither agreed nor disagreed that this was the case.
  • 5 They are sick, stressed and worried – yet still come to work
    37% of all staff reported feeling unwell due to work related stress and pressure. Overall, 25% of staff reported experiencing musculoskeletal problems (injuries or disorders in your lower limbs or back) as a result of work. Linked to this, 63% of staff reported coming to work in the last three months despite feeling unable to perform their duties or the requirements of their role.
  • 6 They blame themselves for their illnesses
    Glow Wellness via Getty Images
    Despite a substantial proportion of staff attending work when unwell, the majority said this was as a result of pressure they put on themselves (92%) rather than pressure from other colleagues (21%) or their manager (28%).
  • 7 They believe the NHS puts patients first
    Nearly three out of four (73%) staff 'agreed' or 'strongly agreed' that care of patients is their organisation’s top priority.
  • 8 But 1 in 3 wouldn’t be happy about the NHS treating friend or family
    Matt Cardy via Getty Images
    Just 69% of staff said they would be happy that their part of the NHS would treat that friend of family member to a good standard if they fell ill - leaving nearly a third (31%) who are unsure.
  • 9 They aren’t happy with their pay
    Peter Byrne/PA Wire
    Just 37% percent of staff report that they are satisfied with their level of pay, thought this is an improvement on 2014's survey, when only 33% of staff said they were.
  • 10 They get attacked
    Ryan Phillips/EMPICS Entertainment
    15% of staff reported that they had experienced physical violence from patients, relatives or members of the public in the last 12 months - a proportion which has remained steady since 2012. In contrast, nearly all staff said they had not experienced violence from a colleague (98%) in the last 12 months.
  • 11 They get harassed
    Dan Kitwood via Getty Images
    The proportion of staff who had experienced harassment from colleagues, patients or patients' relatives was 28%. Less than half of staff (41%) said they had reported any recent incidents.
  • 12 But they feel the NHS looks after them
    Chris Radburn/PA Wire
    89% said that their organisation “definitely” or “to some extent” took positive action on health and wellbeing.
  • 13 They're lacking the equipment they need
    Thierry Dosogne via Getty Images
    Only 55% of staff felt that they had adequate supplies or equipment to do their job effectively.
  • 14 And they don't have the people they need
    LEON NEAL via Getty Images
    Only 31% of staff agreed that there were enough staff in their organisation for them to do their job properly - almost half of all staff (48%) disagreed or strongly disagreed with this. Many staff do not feel they are able to meet all the conflicting demands on their time at work.
  • 15 They work overtime, unpaid
    Jupiterimages via Getty Images
    Just 40% of staff said they didn'twork any unpaid overtime each week, suggesting a majority do.
  • 16 They don't feel valued by the NHS
    Yui Mok/PA Archive
    Only 42% were satisfied that their work was valued by their individual organisation, although two thirds (70%) said that they feel valued by their immediate manager.
  • 17 Ambulance workers are suffering
    ell brown/Flickr
    Ambulance workers score lower than any other NHS department on several scales - they are less ‘engaged’, are only 66% had appraisals in the last 12 months compared to the overage of 86% of all NHS staff. Of the staff who had recent appraisals, three quarters of people said it left them feeling their work was valued, but among ambulance workers the figure was only 57%.
  • 18 Discrimination is low – and it’s most likely to come from other staff
    sturti via Getty Images
    In 2015 only 6% of staff said they had faced discrimination from patients, while the proportion who felt they had been discriminated against by other staff was slightly higher at 7%.

Jeremy Hunt In Fresh Junior Doctors 'Spin' Row
Junior Doctors: How Did It Come to This?

Suggest a correction