171,276 NHS England staff have resigned from their roles since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to analysis of the latest NHS workforce data by medical negligence experts Boyes Turner Claims.
Despite fewer staff leaving in the first year of the pandemic – 14,083 less in 2020 compared to 2019 (-13% year-on-year) – staff resigned in higher volumes in 2021. The second quarter of 2021 saw a 31% y-o-y increase in NHS resignations compared to the corresponding period in 2020.
The data indicates that many people who may have been planning to leave the NHS in 2020 stayed on to help efforts against the Covid-19 pandemic, but these and others are now leaving in higher volumes as the virus shows no signs of going away.
And data received through an FOI request to NHS Digital reveals the number of people that have left the NHS workforce between April 2018 and September 2021.
The data reveals that poor work life balance is the reason for 10% of NHS staff leaving across the country during this period – with 12,035 staff leaving the health service for this reason.
In London, 1,835 staff have quit in the six months between April and September citing work life balance as the reason for doing so. This equates to 8% of all NHS leavers across London in this period.
The most affected working group in London was Midwives, with 19% of those leaving stating poor work life balance as their reason for leaving the service. This was followed by Nurses (15%), Scientific, therapeutic & technical staff (12%) and Support to doctors, nurses & midwives (8%).
The analysis shows the strain and stress that NHS staff have been under in recent years, which is having negative consequences for staff retention.
This has affected the overall stability index for all NHS role categories in England, which peaked at 91% in March 2021 but has trended back towards pre-pandemic levels ever since. The stability figures highlight the staffing level stability, based on staff leavers calculated against new starters in the service.
The stability of the NHS England workforce is at 89.7% in the most recent figures – just 0.2% higher than it was in the quarter ending March 2020.
Roles categorised as “Staff Grade” have taken the biggest hit to stability through the pandemic, with the most recent stability index being -3.7% on pre-Covid levels – just 82.5%. These roles are made up by specialty doctors and specialist grade doctors with at least four years of postgraduate training, highlighting how the NHS may be struggling to keep hold of those with the hands on experience of working with patients.
Analysis of the reasons leavers cited in their resignations show that pandemic fatigue and disillusionment with roles are rising in prominence. Resignations citing a “better reward package” more than doubled (+105%) y-o-y, from 1,285 in 2020-21 to 2,630 in 2021-22. Prior to 21-22, this had been a decreasingly common reason each year for NHS staff to resign.