NHS Staff: Levels of abuse still high yet morale has improved?

Following the recent NHS survey where the results show an improvement in staff morale despite many within the service claiming departments are still under-resourced and under-funded, with growing waiting lists and frontline staff still experiencing abuse from patients and the public alike.

A recent video posted by Matt Hancock (health secretary) on Twitter, suggested “every area of morale has gone up”, with almost every commenter below (most of whom being NHS staff members), stating the opposite.

The NHS survey results prove to be a positive headline for the Conservative Government and seemingly come at a convenient time – a la BREXIT, to encourage the Conservative NHS pledge of £34bn per year extra spending on the NHS.

Positive (marginal) increases

Indeed, it is true regarding what the health secretary took to Twitter to state, as mentioned above. 

However, it should also be mentioned that whilst all areas of morale have seen an increase, the greatest increase was only 1.6% in staff ‘being encourage by their immediate manager’. Almost all other areas saw an increase of less than 1%, with many seeing less than 0.3% compared to results from 2018.

The results also saw a decrease from 2018 regarding staff wanting to leave the organisation, which do bolster the results overall. Speaking of which, the ‘theme score’ increased from 2018, albeit marginally, from 6.1 to 6.2.

The results are broad ranging, from 562,000 employees across 300 separate organisations and so clearly this is more than just a snapshot of opinion. However, the results do not explicitly state what roles the employees surveyed primarily have, where frontline staff would undoubtedly be more leaning towards negative commentary compared to administrative staff, managers, directors and the like.

There was no increase nor decrease in staff who have had at least one incident of bullying, harassment or abuse in the last 12 months, which remains at 28.5%.

“Now of course, there is much more that we still need to do” as the health secretary goes on to state, and based on the above statistics, one would be reluctant to argue against that. 

Juxtaposed commentary

“Levels of bullying and harassment are too high, as well as reported violence against staff and has to be stopped” continues the health secretary. Where according to the recent survey, violence towards staff members has increased marginally by 0.3% from 14.6% in 2018 to 14.9% in 2020. 

Although the health secretary addressed this, it did not stop commenters’ scathing criticism on Twitter. With one commenter asking the question of how many frontline staff from the survey were asked about levels of abuse, reinforcing scepticism of 28.5% seeming low.

“I presume this is all the admin staff and unnecessary managers?!” states the commenter in reply to the health secretary’s video. “Frontline clinical staff DEFINITELY do not feel that way and you’re deluded if you think they do!”

In fact, the list of comments underneath the health secretary’s video were all negative and plentiful at that. Some even quoting the dystopia of Orwell’s 1984, “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears; it was their final and most essential command”.

Many other commenters used the word ‘lies’ and accused the health secretary of playing with statistics:

“I have no doubt that this is more lies, damn lies and statistics”

“When are you going to wake up and start telling the truth”

According to the NHS News website, 7 in 10 staff members would recommend their organisation to their family and friends for treatment, which is a direct contradiction to most comments we have read. 


The £34bn per year extra spending pledge by the Conservative Government appears to be a logical step to bolster an organisation that many would say is still suffering from past austerity policy. Mirrored by a commenter, “NHS staff are over-worked, under-resourced, under-valued, under-paid. They are very tired and stressed. Almost all are not happy”.

There is seemingly a clear intent by the government to inject more cash into the NHS as per Conservative policy with legislation being passed recently. Some are already frustrated by the lack of funding coming to the NHS frontline, “Where is the cash injection into the NHS for frontline services? We need to see action and a real-time impact”.

The issue surrounding morale, like in other organisations, often boils down to resourcing, which in turn requires spending. A common line from frontline staff within the NHS is that there is simply not enough money being injected.

Some staff accusing the Conservatives of attempting to privatise the NHS piece by piece in order to reduce spending, “When Johnson says that he has no intention of selling the NHS, it’s true in the sense that the NHS will not be sold as a job lot. Truth is, that slices of the NHS, service by service, have been sold off for years and this will continue”.

No matter where the money comes from, there appears to be an inextricable link between levels of morale and levels of spending.