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Health and social care survey shows almost 60% of workers feel public services are overwhelmed

The fifth Phase of a UK-wide study exploring the impact of providing health and social care during the COVID-19 pandemic, has revealed 59.4% of those taking part in the survey felt their service was becoming overwhelmed by increased pressures.

Lady with face mask
Image courtesy of Ani Kolleshi via Unsplash.

The fifth Phase of the COVID-19 Health and Social Care Workforce Study, led by Ulster University in partnership with Queen’s University, Bath Spa University and King’s College London, received 1,737 responses from UK-based health and social care workers. The latest Phase of the survey asked about the period from May until July 2022 and brings the total participation so far to over 12,000 responses.

The surveys are measuring mental wellbeing, quality of working life, burnout, and ways of coping at six-month intervals, following the peaks and troughs during the pandemic.

Other key findings include:

  • 52% of staff reported sickness absence relating to COVID-19
  • 73% of staff reported working four hours or more overtime per week since March 2022 due to persistent staff shortages
  • 72% were not taking up support from their employer
  • 37% reported a ‘desire to leave’ their occupation
  • Only 7% of respondents felt their service had not been impacted by the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This latest Phase of the survey also found nurses and midwives were the most impacted occupational groups with almost three-fifths (59.4%) of them feeling overwhelmed by increased pressures as the UK continues to move into the ‘new norm’, with few COVID-19 restrictions now in place.

Dr Denise Currie, Senior Lecturer at Queen’s Management School said: “The respondents to this survey often gave detailed accounts of the challenges and difficulties they have experienced and are still experiencing in their workplace. Alongside concerning statistics regarding wellbeing, quality of working life and burnout, the study also reveals a rich picture of the impact that current conditions in the health and social care sector are having personally and professionally for health and social care workers.”

Commenting on the findings, principal investigator of the study, Dr Paula McFadden, Senior Lecturer in Social Work at Ulster University said: “It is now critical that employers and policy makers take stock of the developing knowledge base and take an informed approach to workforce support and sustainability to maintain staff wellbeing and retention. Our research has found a clear relationship between burnout and intention to leave which threatens the human infrastructure of the health and social care sector. The only way we can protect the workforce is to listen to them and act on the evidence.”

Professor Jill Manthorpe, Director of the National Institute for Health and Care Research Policy Research Unit at King’s College London said: “This is a ground-breaking study in terms of taking the long view of the impacts of the pandemic on the UK’s health and social care workforce. It shows that the pandemic is casting a very long shadow and that efforts are needed by us all to make sure that the tensions and pressures of recovery do not turn into workforce blame. Not only would this be grossly unfair, but it would also potentially accelerate people’s moves from the sector causing yet further problems.”

Based on the survey results, the project team has developed good practice recommendations under the main themes of changing conditions, connections, communication and work-life balance. The recommendations are applicable on individual, organisational and policy levels to support the health and social care workforce.

Full results and findings relating to the data are available at:


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