Trusts spending resources on tackling bullying and abuse should consider the extent to which these problems actually “bother” their staff, according to a study.

Researchers at Salisbury Foundation Trust asked 300 nursing staff how “important and bothersome” they found 42 issues such as heavy workloads and abuse from patients.

The results showed problems commonly seen as presenting the NHS with a large challenge, such as bullying, appeared to have little impact on staff wellbeing.

For example, in the 2010 NHS staff survey, 15 per cent of staff said they had experienced bullying, harassment and abuse from patients, their relatives or other members of the public.

Senior figures, including former Healthcare Commission chairman Sir Ian Kennedy, have warned widespread bullying in the NHS is a serious problem.

But at Salisbury - where the NHS staff survey showed one in seven members of staff had experienced harassment, bullying or abuse from non-staff members in the past year - this did not appear to significantly affect staff wellbeing.

Being upset by abusive patients or relatives emerged as the issue nurses were least concerned about, even among those who had encountered abuse in the past year.

In addition, bullying by other members of staff was seen by the respondents to have a “negligible” impact on their wellbeing, despite the fact that the trust has comparatively high rates of this according to the NHS staff survey.

Nurses were far more concerned about having to leave work late, start early, or miss breaks due to their workloads. The effect of financial cuts was also seen as having a big impact on their wellbeing.

Bridget Juniper, director of Work and Wellbeing, the consultancy that carried out the research, said: “Nurses are very understanding human beings. As long as there’s a good support structure and training in place, [the abuse is] just part of their job and it happens.”

She said the results showed the NHS staff survey results could be “misleading and misinterpreted”.

Salisbury’s deputy human resources director Jenny Hair said the study had informed a review of shift patterns and the introduction of e-rostering.

She said: “We have very limited resources in time and money so we have to work on the areas we think can make the most difference to staff.”