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Female NHS staff at risk of burnout due to Covid-19 crisis, survey finds

Healthcare workers – women, in particular – are suffering from increased rates of stress, anxiety and exhaustion. 

By Rohan Banerjee

Many women working in the NHS are considering leaving their roles due to the intense pressure put on them by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a recent study.

The majority of NHS workers are female, with around nine in every 10 nurses in the UK being women. The study, carried out by the NHS Confederation’s Health and Care Women Leaders Network, collated the thoughts of more than 1,300 women working in both clinical and support settings. 

More than half (52 per cent) of the women surveyed said that the pandemic has had a negative impact on their physical health, with many citing overtiredness and exhaustion due to increased working hours as the main reason. The study found that, on average, women in the NHS have taken on an additional 11 hours of work each week since the pandemic began. 

Around three quarters (72 per cent) of respondents, said that the Covid-19 crisis had contributed to them experiencing mental health problems, including stress and anxiety, largely around their own personal risk to the virus. 

“I can’t buy food on my day off as I want to hide under the covers and sleep,” one of the study’s participants said. She added: “I can’t face being jolly and excited for [my] children, who are scared mummy is going to die of Covid.”

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Off the back of its research the Health and Care Women Leaders Network has made a series of recommendations for NHS management, such as more one-to-one support, access to therapy services, more flexible working arrangements, and putting an end to unpaid overtime. Last month, Health Secretary Matt Hancock launched an “NHS people plan”, in part to address new pandemic challenges and improve physical and mental health support for staff.