COVID winter months see increase in mental health problems among NHS staff

Eir NolsoeData Journalist
Connor IbbetsonData Journalist
February 24, 2021, 12:29 PM UTC

The number of NHS staff who say working during coronavirus has been detrimental to their mental health has increased during the current wave

New YouGov data shows that seven in ten NHS employees (70%) say their mental health has suffered from working during the pandemic. This includes a fifth (19%) who say the impact has been very negative.

This is higher than in October when 60% of NHS workers said their work had harmed their mental wellbeing. At this point, 12% said the impact of working during the coronavirus crisis had been very negative.

Currently, only a fifth of staff (21%) say they’ve not felt any impact to their mental health, down from 28% in October. A small minority (7%) have noticed improvements, which is roughly similar to previously (10%). 

Many NHS workers (44%) also say their physical health has declined from working during the pandemic, including 8% who point to a “very” negative impact. A similar figure (46%) are unaffected, while some 7% say it has improved. We don’t have earlier data to compare with in this instance.

Some NHS staff say it will take years for their mental health to recover

Only 2% of NHS workers who have struggled with poor mental health from working during COVID say they’re better now – down from 8% in October.

A quarter (23%) believe they will need up to six months. This is higher than in autumn (15%) and could mean that the vaccine rollout has raised hopes that the pandemic is coming to an end.  

One in ten NHS employees (10%) say they will need more than a year before they will feel better, while 6% are convinced they will never fully recover.

Many are still unsure how long it will take, with 44% saying they don’t know.

Most NHS staff say they don’t feel fully recovered between shifts

Further to the toll on their mental health, many NHS workers say they don’t recover fully from their work before they have to return for their next shift.  

Only one in six NHS workers (15%) feel completely rested between shifts, while another 47% say they feel partially recovered.

A quarter (26%) feel only slightly recuperated, and one in ten (10%) do not feel recovered at all.

Our latest research also shows that NHS workers are feeling both emotionally and physically tired. On a scale of one to ten with ten meaning ‘completely tired’, most rate their tiredness at five or higher mentally (81%) and physically (79%).

Some 8% of NHS employees rate their mental tiredness at ten, while a similar number (7%) say this applies to their physical state.

Among NHS staff who work in intensive care (either as their main role or temporarily) levels of complete tiredness are higher still, with 17% and 13% rating their physical and mental tiredness respectively as ten.

See the full results here