Impact of working through the COVID-19 pandemic on ambulance service staff and intention to leavethe NHS

Joanne Coster, Andrew Weyman, Richard Glendinning, Rachel O'Hara, Peter Nolan, Debbie Roy

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Impacts of working through the Covid-19 pandemic on ambulance staff retention: a mixed methods study

The Covid-19 pandemic has imposed unprecedented demands on NHS staff and resources, during which time ambulance staff have been working at consistently high levels of operational pressure. This study explores the impact of prevailing conditions on NHS staff health, well-being and their future employment intentions, specifically whether to remain in or leave the NHS.

A UK-wide self-complete, on-line survey of ambulance service employees (n=1534) supplemented by qualitative interviews (n=20) with a cross-section of personnel in two case-study ambulance Trusts. Data was collected between April 2021 – December 2021.

When asked to compare current experiences with the pre-COVID pandemic period 80%of respondents reported greater staff shortage; 76% an increase in workload and 77% increased psychological stress (77%), with 73% reporting degraded morale. Key concerns related to abnormally high levels of staff absence, the impact of work on mental and physical health, inadequate time to do the job and making mistakes because of workloads. Almost one-in-five respondents reported having applied for a non-NHS job in the previous six months, the rate for paramedics was one-in-four. Amongst paramedics less than half (41%) stated that they would recommend working for the NHS to others. Primary push influences motivating transitions to non-NHS employment were identified as: negative impacts on mental health/psychological stress; work-homelife (im)balance and workload intensity. Qualitative findings provided insight into how and in what ways identified variables impacted on staff capacity/resolve to remain in, or leave, NHS employment and, critically, what might need to change to enhance retention.

The Covid-19 pandemic and its legacy of secondary impacts presents as having amplified and intensified latent, previously identified corrosive influences on staff retention. Insights are of relevance to forecasting future service capacity and informing human resource intervention strategy regarding what needs to change to attenuate the flow of exit and stabilise/improve staff retention rates.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jun 2022
Event999 EMS Research Forum Annual Conference 2022 - Sheffield United Football Ground, Sheffield, UK United Kingdom
Duration: 14 Jun 202214 Jun 2022


Conference999 EMS Research Forum Annual Conference 2022
Abbreviated titleAmbulance staff retention post COVID-19
Country/TerritoryUK United Kingdom
Internet address


  • Ambulance Staff Retention NHS


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