Satisfaction and attrition in the UK healthcare sector over the past decade

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

April 13, 2023


Existing literature has highlighted concerns over working conditions in the UK National Health Service (NHS), with healthcare workers frequently citing work-life balance issues and stress as being drivers of attrition and burnout. However, we do not know whether these problems have become worse over time, particularly over the past decade, during which there have been multiple shocks to the UK healthcare system. To investigate this, we analysed data from NHS monthly workforce statistics and the UK Household Longitudinal Study. Three times as many workers left the NHS in 2021 for work-life balance reasons than in 2011, while estimated satisfaction with one’s amount of leisure time for healthcare workers fell by three times the amount that it fell for non-healthcare workers. Both satisfaction with amount of leisure time and satisfaction with income have remained lower for healthcare workers than for other public sector workers. By 2020, a worker that had low satisfaction with their amount of leisure time was as much as 22 percentage points less likely than in 2010 to remain in healthcare in the following year. Overall, working conditions in UK healthcare have deteriorated between 2010 and 2020, especially relative to the private sector. However, overall job satisfaction has fallen faster in other areas of the public sector than it has in healthcare, which may indicate wider issues within the UK public sector as a whole.

Published in



Volume: 18






Open Access

© 2023 Ocean, Meyer

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.



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