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RCP membership survey on pressures this winter

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The RCP surveyed its members across the UK from 7 – 14 December 2022 to understand how they were being affected by staff shortages and growing waiting lists this winter where spikes in COVID-19 and flu are expected.

The survey asked respondents if they were: 

  • confident in our ability to bring down waiting lists and meet elective recovery targets
  • being asked to fill rota gaps at short notice, and if they felt their organisation had enough staff
  • feeling stressed and, if so, what the biggest stressors were and what would make the biggest difference to their wellbeing.

Headline results

  • Winter is a cause for concern, with 93% saying they were very or somewhat concerned about Winter.
  • Staff shortages continue to be the biggest challenge facing the NHS, with 57% of respondents saying they were being asked to fill rota gaps at short notice and 70% saying that they feel patient safety is currently compromised in their organisation by staffing levels.
  • The pressure of working with too few staff and ongoing high demand is causing significant stress, with 76% of respondents saying they are very or somewhat stressed at work, with clinical workload (77%) and staff vacancies in teams (55%) the biggest two factors cited overall as reasons behind that stress.
  • More staff and less clinical work would make the biggest difference to members’ wellbeing, with reduced staff vacancies in their team (42%) and reduced clinical workload (36%) cited as the top two factors that would make the biggest difference to respondents’ wellbeing. 34% said not worrying about their pension and 15% said more time to deliver education and training.
  • Members continue to see health inequalities in their clinical practice, with just under a third (31%) saying that in the last three months they had seen more people with illness due to their living conditions. Seeing more patients with multiple health conditions (34%) and seeing more patients who are acutely unwell (23%) were cited as reasons for stress.
  • Workforce shortages are causing concern for the delivery of safe and effective care. Almost half (47%) felt their organisation did not have enough medical staff to safely manage even daily demand. 41% said that they had enough medical staff to safely manage daily demand, but not during winter and summer peaks.
  • Time off is not leaving staff refreshed and ready to return. The majority (86%) of respondents had been able to take some time off, but 56% said they returned still feeling tired and 41% said they were worried about returning to work. 21% said they felt refreshed and ready to return.

NHS targets and tackling the backlog

  • Most doctors don’t believe that the NHS will meet its target to eliminate waits of more than 52 weeks by March 2025, with 71% saying the NHS would not hit that target, 4% saying it would and 21% saying they weren’t sure. 5% said they didn’t know.

  • Most doctors have doubts that the 18 week referral to treatment target will be recovered, with 27% saying the NHS will not recover the target for 92% of patients to wait no longer than 18 weeks. 20% said it will take 2-4 years to recover and 21% said it will take 4-6 years. 14% said they weren’t sure, and 11% said they didn’t know. 1% said 6 months to a year and 3% said 1-2 years.

What we are doing

The RCP will continue to highlight the challenges faced by its members in meetings with policy and decisionmakers. We will keep asking our members how things are going as we continue to deal with the backlog of care in the face of rising demand.

The RCP jointly published an urgent update, immediate priorities and recommendations with the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM), Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych) and the Society for Acute Medicine (SAM). It includes an urgent update on the situation facing acute care services, and lays out priorities for patients with acute medical presentations and 10 updated recommendations to hospitals and integrated care systems (ICSs).

About the survey

The survey was sent out via an email to RCP members in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland on 7 December 2022. It was filled in by 1,013 people over a period of a week.

For further information, please email policy@rcp.ac.uk.