Healthcare recruiter says mental health support for NHS staff won’t stop the exodus

Following the Health Secretary’s pledge to overhaul mental health support for NHS staff – in an effort to boost retention – Michael Johnson-Ellis, managing director of Healthier Recruitment, has praised the move as a promising step, but suggested that it may be missing the root cause of the problem.

The proposals announced by Matt Hancock include: post-incident support for NHS frontline staff; a dedicated 24-hour mental health support service; fast-tracked mental health referrals for NHS employees; improved rest spaces for on-call staff; and an ‘NHS workforce wellbeing guardian’ in every NHS organisation.

This move follows a recent Mind survey which found that nearly 90% of NHS primary care workers claim to be stressed, and over 20% have developed ‘serious’ mental health problems as a result. This is a contributing factor to the wider staffing crisis that the NHS faces, with research showing that that unfilled vacancies across the service look set to skyrocket to 350,000 by 2030.

Commenting on the developments, Michael Johnson-Ellis, who has over 15 years’ experience in NHS recruitment, said:

“We applaud the Health Secretary’s plans to help tackle the mental health problems faced by nurses and others working in the NHS, and it’s truly encouraging to see this on the agenda. However, throwing money at new initiatives will not be a magic solution to the NHS’s problems. Our work with Trusts has shown us that, from a staffing perspective, many wards have far more deeply ingrained problems which contribute to the ongoing staffing crisis.’’

‘‘The mismanagement of workforces and high turnover of staff, which leads to an overreliance on agency workers, has a huge impact on overall staff wellbeing. This impacts both continuity of care and staffing spend, making the workplace less attractive for substantive staff, and further exacerbating the strain on their mental health. Therefore, along with extra funding for new initiatives, workforce management programmes need to be introduced to address the core issues. Failure to do so is ignoring the true scope of the problem – it’s like sticking a plaster on a wound.

‘’Ultimately, a few small yet effective modifications could significantly improve the way that workforces are recruited and managed. This would have a huge impact on staff engagement and wellbeing long term.’’