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Doctors and nurses want more flexible work arrangements to carry on working in healthcare

  • Deloitte’s study reveals a sense of fulfilment/making a difference and work-life balance are key to job satisfaction in healthcare – in stark contrast to 2017 study when work-life balance was the lowest driver;
  • 87% of healthcare workers, including doctors and nurses, have experienced increased workloads in the last three years, with serious implications for their physical and mental health;
  • Crucially, 50% of nurses and midwives, 35% of doctors and 31% of Allied Health Professions, have considered leaving their profession and changing their career in the last year;
  • Findings come from research of 1,286 healthcare workers across the UK.

Poor work-life balance is a key driver of job dissatisfaction for healthcare workers, and improvements are within the power of employers, according to new research from Deloitte’s Centre for Health Solutions.

The findings come from the report, Time to Change: Sustaining the UK’s clinical workforce, which looked at the experience and resilience of front-line clinicians, based on a survey of 1,286 UK public healthcare workers. The study examines how attitudes within the profession have changed since 2017, when a similar piece of research was conducted, and includes input from doctors, nurses and other clinical staff working in primary, community and secondary care.

Having a ‘sense of fulfilment/making a difference’ (42%) and a good ‘work-life balance’ (41%) are the top two drivers of job satisfaction for healthcare workers.

By contrast, pay (60%) and having a poor work-life balance (42%) are the two main drivers of job dissatisfaction within the professions.

The high ranking of work-life balance for job satisfaction and dissatisfaction is in stark contrast to five years ago, when work-life balance was the fifth-biggest driver of job satisfaction, according to Deloitte’s 2017 study.

When asked how their feelings on job satisfaction and dissatisfaction has affected career intentions, the most common response, among 53% of all respondents and 59% of doctors, was to reduce hours and move to part-time working in healthcare. In addition, 40% of clinicians overall, including 35% of doctors and half of nurses and midwives had considered leaving the profession and changing career.

Karen Taylor, director and head of research at Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions, said: “The problem has worsened over the past few years and our findings mirror recent staff surveys from the industry. There is a clear need to address the physical and mental health needs of staff if employers are to build a resilient workforce.

“Many solutions are in the hands of local health organisations to address and several have implemented effective solutions, just not at the scale needed.”

Sara Siegel, partner and UK and Global head of health at Deloitte, said: “The most vital asset in healthcare is its workforce. Our study shows that the availability, accessibility and quality of care available to patients depend on having the right professionals, with the right skills, in the right place, at the right time.

“Healthcare leaders have a real opportunity to make a long-lasting impact in this crucial area. Those that have adopted new ways of working and technologies, have already realised the benefits to empower their workers. Not only will this help patients, but it will have a positive impact on job satisfaction that supports individuals to build rewarding, long-term careers in healthcare.”

Implications for physical and mental health

The study also revealed that 87% of clinicians had experienced an increase in their workloads since March 2020, including 90% of nurses and midwives and 84% of doctors.

The increase in workload has had serious implications for the physical and mental health and wellbeing of healthcare staff, with 46% of clinical staff experiencing a negative impact on their physical health, including 50% of hospital doctors and 45% of hospital nurses. The study also found 57% disclose a negative impact on their mental health, including 58% of hospital doctors and 59% of hospital nurses.

This is in stark contrast to the 2017 study, in which 30% of hospital doctors and 32% of hospital nurses said that their workload had a negative effect on their physical health; and 23% of hospital doctors and 33% of hospital nurses said that it affected their mental health.

Digitalisation can support staff to work smarter but adoption remains slow

Numerous policy documents and reports, including the NHS Long Term plan, have identified the importance of adopting technology across healthcare. Deloitte’s study therefore asked healthcare workers which technologies they think are helping to improve the quality of patient care. The top five technologies included Electronic Health Records (EHR) (87%), e-prescribing (78%), patient apps (73%), at-home diagnostics (70%) and remote consultations (70%).

Adoption remains low, however, and only 64% of clinicians said they are using EHRs, while fewer than half of respondents have adopted e-prescribing (46%), patient apps (33%), at-home diagnostics (22%) and remote consultations (39%). Likewise, automation of human resource and occupational development services is lagging behind other industries and the study points out the crucial need to modernise these areas.

Dr Karen Kirkham, partner and Chief Medical Officer at Deloitte added: “While healthcare workers know that technology-enabled care models, systems and processes can improve outcomes and safety for patients, simplify tasks and reduce the significant administrative burden for clinicians, adoption remains fragmented.

“Healthcare leaders need to modernise and unlock better ways of working that improve the employee – and employer – experience. More efficient HR and people policies that focus on equality, diversity and inclusion, investing in leadership and professional development, and accelerating the digitalisation of healthcare infrastructure, will go a long way towards developing new ways of working that release time to care.”

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Notes to editors:

About the research

To access the report and supplementary documents click here. The primary research for this report included an extensive literature review and a survey of 1,286 NHS clinicians (comprising doctors, nurses, AHPs and other clinical staff), working in primary, community and secondary care, across all four UK countries, conducted during October 2022. This repeated many of the questions from our 2017 hospital workforce survey. Our methodology also included 34 semi-structured interviews with health and education leaders across the UK, conducted between November 2022 and the end of March 2023 (see Appendix 1), three workshops with the Deloitte UK Clinical Network and expert input from other colleagues working with healthcare clients in the UK and globally.