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9 September 2008 | PR 08/130

Appeal of the NHS as an employer is fading, say health professionals

Recently completed research by Loughborough University Business School has revealed that since 2005, many health professionals have become less willing to work for the NHS.

The study, which was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), uncovered the opinions of 750 physiotherapists, occupational therapists, radiographers and speech and language therapists in late 2007. Just over half of them were employed by the NHS.

Their views in 2007 were compared with what they had said in early 2005, in research funded by the Government's Department of Health. On both occasions questionnaires and interviews were used to obtain a detailed picture of these health professionals' views of NHS employment.

Between the two dates, the allied health professionals working for the NHS became more negative about it, whilst many of those outside the NHS became more certain that they would not try to return. Consistent with an increasingly tight financial position in many Trusts, the allied health professionals also became a lot less confident that an NHS job would be available even if they wanted one.

A sense of job security, previously seen as a major benefit of NHS employment, was also substantially eroded between 2005 and 2007. Nevertheless, those working for the NHS in late 2007 still felt as secure as their colleagues working elsewhere, such as the private health sector or in self-employment.

For allied health professionals working outside the NHS, the convenience and flexibility of working hours in their present job was the most common reason given for staying out of the NHS. For those in the NHS, opportunities for professional and career development were perceived to have reduced, with many feeling stuck in their current posts.

Allied health professionals employed by the NHS were very aware of redundancies and the freezing of vacancies in their workplaces. They also reported a lot of other organisational changes, especially re-structuring and mergers. For the most part, these were seen as negative, though some thought that reorganisation was a good thing. A significant minority were disappointed by the grade their job had been awarded in the reforms spurred by Agenda for Change.

However it was by no means all bad news for the NHS. Perceptions of NHS pay improved substantially between early 2005 and late 2007. NHS pension provision was perceived significantly more positively in 2007 than it had been two years earlier. Ironically, this was especially the case for the 45 allied health professionals in the research who had left NHS employment since 2005.

Commenting on the findings, the research team leader Professor John Arnold, said: “Although the NHS has recently been more focussed on controlling costs than recruiting and retaining staff, the pendulum will inevitably swing back at some point. When that happens, it will be a major challenge to attract allied health professionals back to the NHS, and keep enough of those already there.

“The improved perceptions of pay and pensions are encouraging for the NHS, but negatives like fewer opportunities for professional development, unwelcome organisational change, lower job security and poorer work-life balance dominate the picture at the moment.”

– Ends –

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Hannah Baldwin
Head of PR
Loughborough University
T: 01509 222239
E: H.E.Baldwin@lboro.ac.uk

Notes for editors:

  1. Information on the research project can be found at www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ESRCInfoCentre/ViewAwardPage.aspx?awardnumber=res-000-22-2443
  2. Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research, strong links with industry and unrivalled sporting achievement.

    It is a member of the esteemed 1994 Group – a set of internationally recognised, research intensive universities – and has a reputation for the relevance of its work. Its degree programmes are highly regarded by professional institutions and businesses, and its graduates are consistently targeted by the UK’s top recruiters.

    Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training facilities across a wide range of sports.

    In the 2007 National Student Survey, the University was voted fourth in the UK, with 23 out of 29 of Loughborough’s subject areas being ranked in the top ten for overall satisfaction. Loughborough is also ranked in the top fifteen of UK universities in national league tables. It was named winner of the 2006 and 2007 Times Higher award for the UK’s Best Student Experience and winner of the 2007 award for Outstanding Support for Overseas Students. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes – an achievement bettered by no other university.
  3. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest funding agency for research and postgraduate training relating to social and economic issues. It supports independent, high quality research which impacts on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC's planned total expenditure in 2008/09 is £203 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and research policy institutes. More at http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk

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