In the 70th year of the NHS, an investigation by the Cable reveals that those who care for the nation are in need of serious attention.
Illustration: Fran Hooper
The number of Bristol NHS workers suffering from stress has soared in recent years, an investigation by the Cable shows.
Analysis of NHS data reveals that workers in the North Bristol Trust, that runs Southmead Hospital along with a range of other services, have reported a shocking 80% rise since 2010 in the number of instances of staff taking time off work due to stress-related illness. The South West Ambulance Service who operate ambulances across the region have seen a massive rise of 210%* of instances of stress related absence since 2013, while workers at the University Hospitals Bristol Trust that operates the BRI has seen a 70% increase in working days lost to stress since 2011.
Across the three employers, the number of working days lost to stress or anxiety has risen by 41%* in the seven years up to the end of 2017, making stress account for the greatest number of working days lost to any type of illness.
In just four years 232,141 days, or 893 working years** have been lost to stress between Jan 2014 and the end of 2017.
Though the data doesn’t show whether the stress is work-related or not, rising stress among NHS staff is widely reported in sector wide staff surveys and and as told to the Cable by staff (see below).
Bristol MPs have responded to the investigation’s findings. Darren Jones, Labour MP for Bristol North West said, “The rising number of stress-related absences of NHS workers in the Bristol area are worrying but unsurprising. The demands on NHS staff have risen sharply whilst rewards and control over work has reduced. This is a recipe for stress and the government needs to listen to these staff and invest in our most treasured public service.”
Kerry McCarthy, Labour MP for Bristol East said, “I have heard directly from constituents – who work across the health service – about the increased pressures they are facing in their jobs and the impact this is having on their own health and their family life.
“We cannot take for granted the hardworking and dedicated staff who are the backbone of our health service. These people deserve the utmost respect for working long and unsociable hours in high-pressure environments to keep patients safe. The government must do more to address the constant funding and staff shortages that have become the norm over the last seven years.”
A spokesperson for the South West Ambulance Service said, “Staff are our most important asset and staff health and wellbeing is a top priority which is why we introduced our acclaimed Staying Well Service and actively encourage staff to report incidents of stress and anxiety.”
The North Bristol Trust’s Director of People & Transformation said, “We are clear that the health of those who work for us as important as our patients’, so already have a host of measures in place to proactively support the wellbeing of our staff and are working to provide even more support. Things we offer include: wellbeing and resilience workshops, mental health awareness raising and support and mental health first aid training from Mind.”
The Director of People at University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust said, “The Trust takes the health and wellbeing of its staff extremely seriously, and we are very concerned by this growth in absence due to stress.
“We do our best to support staff and encourage them to talk about any stress they experience and seek help. We have a support programme available which provides advice and guidance to help staff identify and manage potential causes of stress before they become a problem.”
Whatever the root causes, in the 70th anniversary of the service, it’s clear the workers on whose care the population relies are in need of serious attention themselves.