NHS staff work 1m unpaid hours a week, Labour analysis reveals

Labour analysis has revealed that NHS staff are working one million hours of unpaid overtime every week to cope with understaffing under the Tory government.

Nearly 270,000 staff said they worked extra hours for free every week – at an average of 2.3 hours per week, fresh analysis of the most recent NHS staff survey showed. Two thirds of staff said their organisation was understaffed.

Commenting on the findings, Jonathan Ashworth said: “The NHS is in crisis after nearly a decade of Tory cuts and it’s a disgrace that its dedicated staff, who always put their patients first, are having to pick up the pieces to fill the gaps left by this crisis made in Downing Street.

“Boris Johnson’s Tories have let the NHS, its staff and our country badly down by intentionally slashing funding for staff training and scrapping the nursing bursary.”

The Shadow Health Secretary added: “Labour’s NHS rescue plan will restore the nursing bursary and recruit thousands of doctors and nurses that the NHS clearly needs to end the Tory crisis. You can’t trust the Tories with our NHS and we can’t have another five years of this.”

Ashworth announced Labour’s £26bn ‘rescue plan’ earlier this week. The wide-ranging proposal includes steps to train 24,000 new nurses, expanding GP training places to 5,000, and investing in mental health support for NHS staff.

Labour’s analysis has found that, between them, dentists and doctors worked 125,000 hours of unpaid overtime a week, allied health professionals such as occupational therapists and physiotherapists worked 210,000, while nurses worked a total of 380,000.

Responding to the findings, UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “The NHS 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.”

GMB, another Labour-affiliated trade union, noted that “thousands are effectively earning below the minimum wage”, adding: “The reality under the Tories is that the NHS is being held together by the devotion of overworked and under-appreciated staff.”

Analysis from the King’s Fund earlier this year revealed that there were more than 100,000 NHS staff vacancies, amounting to roughly one in 11 NHS posts. It also found “chronically high levels of absenteeism and presenteeism”.

40% of staff report being unwell due to stress every year, according to the King’s Fund research, and 50% more NHS staff now report debilitating levels of work stress compared to the general working population.

More from LabourList