Eight in 10 NHS staff feel the pressures currently on health services are as concerning as during the height of the pandemic, according to a new poll.
More than 80% of 1,000 NHS staff surveyed said problems are still growing significantly, and 96% believe they will continue for years, despite declining Covid-19 cases.
Workers are particularly worried about the system being strained by a record backlog of patients and long waiting lists, as well as patients whose ailments went untreated during the pandemic.
Three-quarters are also concerned about a winter spike in respiratory illnesses.
The results demonstrated “the huge mental toll the pandemic took and continues to take,” NHS Charities Together’s chief executive Ellie Orton said.
“The impact is expected to last for many years to come, which is why we must continue to be there for staff in the long term.”
Nearly half of respondents said they had experienced anxiety since the start of the pandemic, with almost a quarter reporting depression.
Dr Shaun Thein, 31, who dealt with the onslaught of Covid patients at Birmingham City Hospital during the first wave of the pandemic said it was “distressing” as “many weren’t surviving”.
He said: “Dealing with the emotional burden has been incredibly challenging, and the impact on staff is going to last well into the future.”
While many NHS workers have been able to access support from their workplace, more than a third said they would still benefit from psychological support or counselling.
The survey also found that almost 90% of staff agreed the NHS had done “the best possible job tackling Covid-19”, and 84% were “proud” to work for the health service.
The poll was run online in August by YouGov and NHS Charities Together, the independent national charity partner of the health service.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said the findings backed up its analysis from earlier in the week, which showed that NHS nurses are experiencing more sickness, including for anxiety and depression, than before the pandemic and face a tough winter that could impact patient care.
The NHS in England recorded over 18% more sick days among nurses and health visitors in May 2021 compared to May 2019 (73,209 more sick days), according to the RCN’s analysis.
RCN council chair Carol Popplestone said: “The pandemic has taken a toll on nursing staff and we’re concerned, without better support, there will be even longer-term damage to their physical and emotional wellbeing.
“Ministers across the UK are in denial about how widespread staff shortages are in health and social care, and the impact they could have this winter.
“There will be immense pressure on health and care services this winter and services can’t afford to lose safety-critical professionals to avoidable illnesses on top of tens of thousands of nursing vacancies. The risk to our patients is too high to do nothing.”