• Violence at work from patients highest in five years
  • Discrimination also increased
  • Satisfaction with pay levels fell 6 percentage points – union says pay freezes taken their toll
  • NHS England says there are “warning signs”
  • Result got worse in 21 out of 32 survey themes

The percentage of NHS staff who say they have experienced violent attacks from patients, relatives and the public is at a five year high, according to the NHS staff survey results published today.

The results of the 2017 survey, carried out from September to November, show that 15.2 per cent of staff reported having experienced physical violence – a rise from 15 per cent in the 2016 survey.

The NHS England-commissioned survey gathered responses across 309 NHS organisations from 485,000 staff, the biggest response in the survey’s history.

Staff experience of violence from other staff over the last 12 months has also marginally increased to 2.1 per cent, it found.

Of the survey’s 32 “key finding” themes, 21 saw results worsened compared to 2016, while only 11 had improved.

One of the biggest changes from 2016 was the share of staff satisfied with their pay – falling to 31 per cent, down 6 percentage points on 2016. The number of staff working additional unpaid hours remains at a similar level to last year – 58 per cent.

The 2017 survey reported a rise in discrimination experienced by staff at work – it rose from 11.8 per cent to 12.6 per cent, with more staff experiencing discrimination from colleagues and managers rather than patients.

Fewer staff have recommended their organisation as a place to work or receive treatment than in 2016 – the weighted score out of 5 reduced from 3.75 to 3.74, with ambulance trusts reporting the worst results overall.

Staff are also reporting lower satisfaction with the quality of work and care they are able to deliver than in 2016. This year, 66.8 per cent of staff “agree” or “strongly agree” they are able to deliver the care they aspire to, compared to 68.2 per cent in 2016.

The percentage of staff who agree their role makes a difference to patients has also declined since 2016 – it dropped from 90.1 per cent to 89.7 per cent.

Staff motivation saw a decline from last year – 3.90 down from 3.92 – despite previously increasing year-on-year since 2013.

The percentage of staffing seeing potentially harmful errors, near misses or incidents within the last month has remained much the same as in 2016 (29.1 per cent compared to 29 per cent) but the number of reported errors or incidents witnessed has declined from 90.6 per cent to 90.2 per cent over the last year.

However, the percentage of staff who reported good communication between senior management and staff has increased from 33 per cent in 2016 to 33.5 per cent in this year’s survey.

Neil Churchill, director of patient experience at NHS England, said there are “warning signs NHS employers will need to do all they can to ensure the NHS supports staff to deliver the high standards expected by patients”.

Danny Mortimer, NHS Employers chief executive, described the results of the survey as “challenging” and show that staff “cannot absorb further work pressures”.

“Employers in the NHS have been anticipating worsening results from this most recent survey and sadly their concerns have been reflected in the outcome,” Mr Mortimer said.

Unison head of health Sara Gorton said it is “clear that wage freezes and woeful pay rises have taken their toll on NHS staff”.

“This not only puts further pressure on the remaining nurses, healthcare assistants and other NHS colleagues, but also ultimately affects patient care and safety,” Ms Gorton said.