BGS report finds that short-staffing negatively affects healthcare professionals’ mental health

09 February 2024

The British Geriatrics Society (BGS) has published a new report 'The state of the older people’s healthcare workforce'. The findings in this report were gathered following analysis of a survey of the BGS membership. The survey was designed to understand the pressures currently being felt by multidisciplinary healthcare professionals caring for older people across the UK.

The results of this survey will not come as a surprise to BGS members, nor indeed to anyone working in the NHS. The report shows that older people’s healthcare services routinely face workforce shortages with more than 80% of respondents reporting that their service is short-staffed at least weekly. Survey respondents also stated that there were difficulties recruiting to vacant roles. A majority of respondents said that they were aware of vacancies in their services being advertised but not always filled. Over 40% said that they were aware of vacancies sometimes not being advertised because there was no expectation of being able to recruit to them.

Under-staffing of older people’s healthcare services is having a direct impact on the wellbeing of BGS members with more than half of respondents stating that the shortage of staff is one of the main factors having a negative impact on their mental and emotional health. Members expressed frustration at not being able to provide the high-quality care that they would wish to. When asked what changes at work would make a difference to their mental wellbeing, around a third of those who answered this question stated that having more staff available would make the biggest difference and would enable them to provide a better quality of care to their patients.

There is some cause for optimism. BGS members across the country are sharing their innovative solutions to the workforce crisis, including making the most of new roles and offering training opportunities. The BGS is encouraging members to continue to share these examples so that colleagues can implement them in their own services.

Professor Adam Gordon, President of the British Geriatrics Society, said:

It is important that we survey our membership from time to time to help us understand the situation in local services across the country. While it is heartening to hear of innovative solutions that members have implemented to address the workforce crisis, the overall message from our members is concerning, if not surprising. Older people are the biggest users of health and care systems, and it is vital that workforce capacity reflects this. There is a role for us all in ensuring that older people’s healthcare is fully and sustainably resourced. We call on all political parties to ensure that this is a priority as we approach an election.”

Dr Amit Arora, Vice President for Workforce, said:

BGS members have told us loud and clear that short-staffing is the biggest issue facing their services. A majority of members said that their services are short-staffed at least weekly and that their mental and emotional wellbeing would be most improved by having more staff. As part of a strategic approach, the NHS must ensure that it recruits, retains, develops and supports its workforce.”

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