Headlines: March 17th, 2003

More evidence has emerged that organizational change across the public sector is resulting in higher levels of stress. The employee attitudes survey published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development shows that 38 per cent of NHS workers and 30 per cent of local government workers find their work very stressful with nurses, doctors and teachers among those most likely to suffer stress. This compares to an average of 25% across all sectors.Although stress levels are not as high in central Government, morale is lower. Nearly 50 per cent of central Government workers say that “what happens at work isn’t really important, it’s just my job”. This is three times the percentage in the NHS. The CIPD survey also shows the psychological contract, the mutual expectations of employer and employees, to be worse in central Government where only 7 per cent of people believe strongly that “the organization cares about my opinions”. Another indicator of low morale in central Government is that 2 out of 5 feel fairly treated by their managers and supervisors compared with more than half in other sectors.

Mike Emmott, CIPD Adviser in Employee Relations commenting on the survey says, “The findings underline the huge task facing the Government as it attempts to reform and improve public services. Public sector workers are experiencing higher levels of organizational change than the private sector and this presents a further challenge for managers. The NHS uses relatively few HR practices. National and local governments need to pay more attention to the way in which people management policies are implemented.”

Recent research revealing high stress levels in the public sector include, a Bristol University study in 2001 on those on higher salaries and among teachers and nurses. A BMA report in 2000 showing that many senior doctors suffer high levels of stress as a result of their work. The Policy Studies Institute in 2001, Neurolink 2001 and Teacherline 2000 have also produced similar findings for senior nurses, doctors and teachers respectively.