More social work managers in the NHS are suffering work-related stress or bullying, an official NHS survey has found.
The annual NHS staff survey revealed 54% of social care managers suffered work-related stress in 2015, up from 45% the year before. The percentage reporting bullying or abuse from staff rose from 25% to 31% over the same period.
Stress among frontline social workers also rose, from 38% to 40% but remained lower than 2013 levels. The percentage experiencing workplace bullying or harassment increased from 17% to 22%.
The 2015 survey received responses from 783 social workers and 172 social care managers working in the NHS. The vast majority worked in NHS mental health trusts or combined community health and mental health trusts.
NHS mental health services are under intense pressure. Research by Community Care published earlier this year found funding for trusts fell 8% in real-terms over the last parliament, while referral rates had increased.
Recent research has also suggested tensions are increasing around social care provision in NHS trusts, as local authorities review integrated arrangements.
A series of measures included in the NHS staff survey suggest social care managers are feeling the strain.
Their overall ‘staff engagement’ score – a rating calculated from 32 different indicators of wellbeing and job satisfaction – dropped from 3.92 in 2014 to 3.82. Engagement scores for frontline social workers, social care support staff, nurses and occupational therapists all rose over the same period.
Just over a third of social care managers (36%) felt senior management communicated well with staff, down from 43% in 2014 and 58% two years earlier. They also felt less supported by their immediate managers and less likely to recommend their organisation as a place to work or get treatment than in 2014. All of these indicators improved among frontline social workers.
Despite the challenges, the 2015 survey showed 90% of social care managers felt their role made a difference to service users, down 5% on the previous year. The percentage of social workers who felt their role made a difference rose from 89% to 92%.