A snapshot survey of health workers has revealed ‘a spreading mosaic of concern’ over patient safety across a cash-strapped NHS.

The poll by Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, of nearly 2,000 health service members this week shone light on a NHS on its financial knees after ‘a decade of austerity-plus cuts’.

Unite, which has a 100,000 members in the health service, said the clear choice at next Thursday’s general election was between a NHS true to its founding 1948 principles available free for all those in need, or a health service ‘up for grabs’ in a proposed free trade deal with Donald Trump’s America.

The key findings of the Unite survey

• 95 per cent of respondents said that the government is not doing enough to train the staff that the NHS needs
• 72 per cent of nurses and 65 per cent of all respondents have raised concerns about safe staffing in their working area/department over the last 12 months
• 70 per cent  reported experiencing frequent staff shortages in their workplaces in the last 12 months
• 67 per cent have very seriously or fairly seriously considered leaving their current position in the last 12 months
• 63 per cent frequently or always worked more than their contractual hours.

Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “These figures are frightening in terms of patient safety. If you join up the dots from the information supplied this week by our members, there is a spreading mosaic of concern.

“This snapshot survey proves that the safe staff legislation, as passed in Wales and Scotland for the NHS, is urgently needed in England and Northern Ireland to ensure that we keep patients safe and that a new impetus is given to retain and recruit skilled professionals in the NHS.

“This would need a change in culture, one that no longer puts financial diktats before patient welfare. It also requires less bean counters and management consultants telling under pressure NHS staff and managers what we already know.”

Unite national officer for health Jackie Williams said: “Next Thursday is a watershed moment when voters can decide to jettison the last nine years of real time, austerity-plus, cuts to NHS resources, with staff morale at an all-time low, and burgeoning vacancy rates for NHS staff, particularly in nursing.

“We need the next decade to be one of investment, consolidation, improvement and optimum patient safety – and the last thing the NHS needs is for it to be up for grabs in any trade deal with Donald Trump.”


Notes to editors:

The Unite survey took place in the week beginning 2 December 2019 and generated 1,872 responses.

The respondents were from every part of the UK, covering NHS professionals, such as ambulance staff, health visitors, nurses, pharmacy, allied health professionals, scientists, ancillary staff, admin and clerical staff, doctors, managers, psychologists, and estates and maintenance staff.

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on:  020 3371 2065

Email: [email protected]

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.