DOCTORS and nurses in our hospitals are forced to work beyond their working hours without pay as the staffing and recruitment crisis continues to take its toll.

According to the NHS Staff Survey 2018, the majority of respondents (62 per cent) at Oxford University Hospitals OUH said they work unpaid extra hours, while hundreds admitted that work-related stress had made them ill.

And worryingly for trust bosses, just a quarter of staff felt that OUH took positive action on the mental health and wellbeing of its staff.

The findings are yet more evidence that local workers at the county's understaffed hospitals continue to be pushed to the limit.

Less than a third of workers felt there were enough staff at the trust to enable them to do their job properly.

More than 5,700 staff took part in the survey, representing almost half of the OUH workforce.

Last April the trust said it was committed to helping staff manage their stress levels, however, the number of those becoming ill through work-related stress actually increased from 41 per cent to 42 per cent.

The potential impact of an over-stretched workforce on both staff and patient care has seemingly not been lost on local health chiefs with recent board papers revealing staff had been reminded of the importance of taking regular breaks whilst on shift.

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The NHS in Oxfordshire has been struggling to attract enough frontline staff in recent years with many blaming the high cost of living in the area as the main barrier (just a third of staff felt their pay was adequate).

And while hospital doctor and nurse numbers at OUH have actually risen over the last decade, they have not kept pace with the rise in demand.

According to the latest NHS figures the trust, which runs the John Radcliffe Hospital, the Churchill Hospital and the Horton General in Banbury, had 204 nursing and midwifery vacancies as of September 2018 - an increase of 44 from the year before.

The trust has recently launched a series of recruitment drives in countries across the world, in an effort to bolster staff numbers with plans to recruit up to 200 new nurses from countries such as India, The Philippines and the Caribbean over the next two years.

The NHS Staff Survey is carried out each year and is considered a ‘valuable source of insight’ for health chiefs in understanding the concerns of staff.

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Almost a third of respondents (28.4 per cent) said they had experienced bullying, harassment or abuse by patients or members of the public, while 23.4 per cent said they had experienced the same from colleagues.

In 2017, OUH ran a series of conferences to stamp out ‘bullying hot spots’ within the trust with chair Dame Fiona Caldicott saying at the time senior leaders had ‘to take responsibility within OUH to eradicate bullying and harassment’.

11.6 per cent of staff said in the survey they had experienced violence from patients or members of the public.

The survey also revealed one in ten staff said they had experienced discrimination at work, while 47 per cent of those had said that discrimination had been based on their race, while 20.9 per cent said they had been discriminated against because of their gender.

Meanwhile public satisfaction with the NHS was revealed to be at its lowest in more than a decade according to the annual British Social Attitudes survey.

Just 53 per cent of the public is satisfied with the NHS, compared to 70 per cent in 2010, despite the Prime Minister’s £20bn funding boost.

Unhappiness over waiting times and staff shortages were the main reasons for the downward trend.


Oxford University Hospitals bosses said they were disappointed after it was revealed measures put in place to improve mental health and wellbeing of staff had not yet been successful.

The trust had taken a number of steps aimed at improving staff morale including holding mental health workshops for staff teams, launching the Daisy Awards to recognise exceptional nurses and midwives, while also providing grants of up to £3,000 to help improve support for staff and patients in individual areas.

OUH director of improvement and culture John Drew, said: “We are naturally disappointed that staff have not yet felt the benefits of the measures we are taking to improve health and wellbeing in the Trust.

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“This is an issue the trust takes very seriously and our occupational health team work hard to support staff.

“Our Here for Health team who offer advice on how to improve physical and mental health have expanded their work to hold regular sessions at the Horton General as well as the John Radcliffe hospitals.

“We have just launched a campaign to remind staff of the importance of taking their breaks, as we know that our dedicated staff need to look after themselves to enable them to provide the best possible care to our patients.

“Our scores generally are very much in line with the NHS nationally which is facing a challenging period with rising demand and some structural shortfalls in workforce.”

Despite the concerns over staff mental health, Mr Drew said he was pleased to see an increase in the number of staff taking part in the survey.

The response rate had increased from 38.8 per cent in 2017 to 48.1 per cent.