NHS workers missing out on family events because of ‘chronic’ understaffing, UNISON research shows

Nearly half of NHS workers in the east of England are missing out on family birthdays and anniversaries because they are unable to leave work on time, UNISON research reveals today.

UNISON polled more than 1,200 NHS workers, including both clinical and non-clinical staff, across the east of England* to find out how staff shortages and excessive overtime are affecting their home lives.

Nearly three-quarters (72%) go to work at least once a month feeling anxious that they will not be able to leave work on time, while 27% of the total are worried about when they’ll get home every day they work.

Close to half (48%) have missed an important personal event, such as a family birthday, anniversary, planned trip out or kids’ school event, leaving them feeling unhappy, guilty and angry that they couldn’t be there, and many that their employer doesn’t care about them.

And 61% of respondents say that their home has been affected by the long hours, with many saying that it causes issues with their partners, they don’t see enough of their children and they over-rely on friends and families for childcare.

Four-fifths (79%) of staff say they work overtime because of short staffing or because they have too much to do in their normal shift time. Of these, 43% say that at least some of the overtime is unpaid, while a quarter (23%) do not claim any time or money.

UNISON Eastern region head of health Sasha Savage said: “It’s not right that the people working tirelessly to keep our health service running through a decade of austerity have to go to work every day worried they won’t make it home in time to sit down for a family meal or put their kids to bed.

“Our health service is running on fumes after years of underfunding. Chronic understaffing has left us with a system propped up by the goodwill of devoted health workers.

“It is no way to run a cherished national asset and is the terrible legacy of nine years under the Conservatives. We need a government prepared to invest properly in the NHS.”