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Helen L. Millar


Background: Burnout, as a global phenomenon, has probably always existed and been present in all cultures but more recently has been increasingly identified in the public health sector work place. The UK National Health Service (NHS) is the largest employer in Europe with over 1.3 million workers. It therefore reflects many of the challenges common to global health care systems. The escalation of burnout in the UK NHS (National Health Service) is now recognized given the impact on workforce sustainability and the health care delivery.
Objectives: This article aims to highlight the current epidemic of burnout in the UK NHS, its causes, and impact on the workforce and quality of care provided. Strategies developed to improve the health of the NHS workforce will be reviewed and appraised in terms of their impact and limitations to date.
Methods: The methodology includes a broad overview of selected articles/publications focusing on the concept of burnout and the impact on the workforce and patient care and is not intended to be a systematic review. Publications include peer reviewed articles, governmental strategic documents, recent surveys, and relevant responses by health care professionals and other relevant independent bodies.
Results: The current literature highlights that burnout in the NHS is a major concern. It is clear that recognition of the extent of the problem and its impact are crucial for the sustainability of the NHS. The alarming rate of work force attrition is evident and unless immediate drastic steps are taken to address the root causes, the pressure on remaining staff will escalate to breaking point resulting in an inability to sustain services due to further staff losses. Evidence demonstrates that staff burnout adversely affects patient care and increases errors.
Conclusion: It is vital that burnout is addressed as a matter of urgency in order to ensure a healthy and productive workforce and to ensure patients are treated safely and effectively. The NHS’s very survival depends on direct and urgent action to remedy this situation.

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Author Biography

Helen L. Millar

Consultant Psychiatrist, UK