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NHS crisis: is it more than just a funding issue?

Author: Laura Farrell

It’s been alleged, by leading health expert Nigel Edwards, that a combination of staff shortages, disputes with the government and bullying are creating a “toxic mix” within the NHS.

This year has seen a number of strikes by junior doctors in England about changes to their contracts along with protests from nurses and midwives against plans to scrap the bursaries they receive whilst they are studying.

Mr Edwards pointed out that all of this was happening during a time of looming staff shortages.  A recent report by the Public Accounts Committee warned that the NHS was short of a front-line workforce to the tune of around 50,000 members of staff.

A staff survey, also published this year, further highlighted the problem by pointing out that only 31% thought that there were enough staff for them to do their job properly.

One NHS trust has also received feedback from a number of health managers about deteriorating morale and uncontrollable growth in workload.  With one manager going as far to say that there was a “creeping sense of inevitability and acceptance that failure will happen at some point.”

Mr Edwards has also said that whilst the financial problems that the NHS currently face can be rectified, problems with staff moral will be harder to fix.  He took the view that care and compassion of health workers was underpinned by a psychological contract and “once the psychological contract with staff is broken, it may be impossible to reverse”.  He went on to say that if the problem persists the affinity staff felt for the NHS could be irreparably broken down.

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