RCEM responds to the growing fear among trust leaders of workforce burnout ahead of ‘perfect storm’ this winter

6 October 2020

The results from a survey by NHS Providers shows that 99% of leaders of NHS trusts and foundation trusts are concerned about current levels of burnout across the workforce with fears staff are being pushed beyond their limits and worry for their wellbeing.

The anxiety is in anticipation of a second wave of covid-19 and a challenging winter, the combination referred to as a ‘perfect storm’.

Responding to the latest results of the survey by NHS Providers, Dr Katherine Henderson, President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine said:

“We welcome this report, despite the stark findings, and hope that it is a call to action for the government.

“Trust leaders are rightly worried about staff wellbeing. Health care workers are having to balance the fight against covid-19 with resuming ‘business as usual’ to ensure the public continues to receive the care they need. Being open about the size of the challenge is critical to staff morale.

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"Coronavirus cases are rising quickly and Emergency Departments are seeing an uptick in attendances. We are returning to the status quo, which means crowded emergency departments and long waits with staff stretched to the limit.

“This is taking its toll; staff are mentally drained and edging towards burnout. We need more staff to help relieve pressure on the existing workforce, but in the short-term more is needed to ensure staff wellbeing. Having timely access to testing and adequate, sustainable supplies of PPE will help reassure staff. Trusts also need to ensure that there are proper infection control regulations in place, to protect both staff and patients and this means not allowing crowed Emergency departments and patients in corridors. We are already seeing this happening.

“Trust leaders are also right to be concerned about a lack of sufficient investment in social care, particularly in the Covid endemic era. Tackling the social care issue must be a priority for government. With seasonal influenza that spreads through the community, our care homes must have a comprehensive action plan on how to treat our elderly and vulnerable patients to protect them both in hospital and out.

“As the report says, we are facing a potential ‘perfect storm’ this winter. Trusts will need direction and support from the centre as to where their priorities should lie, and clarity on expectations given the limits of what is deliverable in the face of the challenges ahead.”