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NHS staff work-life balance has declined over the past decade according to new Warwick University study

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NHS work-life balance has steadily deteriorated over the past decade, driving people away from healthcare, according to a new study by academics from the University of Warwick.

From 2011 to 2021, approximately 13,000 additional NHS staff left their roles voluntarily per quarter, going from about 19,000 quarterly leavers in 2011 to about 32,000 quarterly leavers in 2021.

The study estimated that the satisfaction of healthcare workers in terms of their work-life balance has fallen significantly in the past decade. The study applies to NHS staff across the UK.

The new findings come at a time of increasing difficulty for the NHS as they struggle to recruit and retrain staff, with several industrial action disputes among doctors and healthcare workers still ongoing.

The study also estimated that staff who were the least satisfied with their work-life balance would have been over 20 percentage points more likely to leave healthcare in 2020 than they would have been in 2010.

Models from the research suggest that satisfaction with amount of leisure time for healthcare workers has fallen by three times the amount that it has fallen for non-healthcare workers between 2010 and 2020.

Neel Ocean, Assistant Professor in Behaviour and Wellbeing Science at the University of Warwick, led the research. He commented:

“Our study shows that work-life balance and satisfaction levels for healthcare workers have fallen over the past decade, and to a greater extent than in the private sector. We can also see that dissatisfied healthcare workers are becoming more likely over time to leave the sector.

“This paints a grim picture, because it means the sector could be heading towards a downward spiral: worse conditions lead to more staff leaving, which leads to further workload pressures that worsen conditions for the remaining staff, and so on.

“Therefore, our study suggests that there needs to be a focus on improving working conditions within UK healthcare if we want to prevent a mass exodus of healthcare workers in the near future.”

The full study can be read here.


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