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The sixth and final phase of a UK-wide study exploring the impact of providing health and social care has revealed more social workers are reporting being overwhelmed than any other related profession (68.4%).

The COVID-19 Health and Social Care Workforce Study, led by Ulster University in partnership with Queen’s University Belfast, Bath Spa University and King’s College London, measures mental wellbeing, quality of working life, burnout and ways of coping at six-month intervals, following the peaks and troughs during and following the pandemic.

The latest phase of the survey looked at the period from November 2022 until January 2023, and brings the total participation so far to over 14,400 responses.

Key findings of the research include:

  • 50% of health and social care workers report a lower work-related quality of life;
  • 43% of the workforce are considering changing employer;
  • 40% of workers are considering a change of occupation;
  • The top three changes that would make respondents change their minds about wanting to leave their employer or current occupation were:
    • Pay increase 61%
    • Managerial support 46%
    • wellbeing support 41%.

Commenting on these findings, principal investigator of the study, Dr Paula McFadden, Senior Lecturer in Social Work at Ulster University, said:

“This Phase 6 Report marks the third anniversary of COVID-19, and the research team would like to thank the health and social care workers’ for their magnanimous response to the shock of pandemic, and all that entailed for them, their service users, families and loved ones. They have shown great resilience in the face of such overwhelming challenges, but it has been with a cost to their own wellbeing. It is time now for employers, and all stakeholders, to take forward the evidence produced in studies such as ours, and use the intelligence provided wisely, to inform authentic supports, interventions, and investment in the workforce. Otherwise, the current workforce crises will continue to get worse with dire consequences for this workforce and society in general.”

Marian O’Rourke, Director of Regulation and Standards, Northern Ireland Social Care Council, commented:

"We at Northern Ireland Social Care Council, are delighted to see the Phase 6 HSC Workforce Wellbeing and Coping Study being launched. This important research is critical to develop both a deeper understanding of workforce pressures and how staff are affected. We as the social work and social care regulatory body, benefit from critical insights, which inform the development of appropriate interventions to respond to these issues in a timely manner. The research provides a comparison between U.K. countries and other health professionals, which has been its strength since launched in 2020."

Karen Murray, Director of the Northern Ireland Royal College of Midwives comments:

"As we approach the third anniversary since the beginning of COVID-19, we would like to thank the work of the HSC Workforce Wellbeing and Coping Study research team, for providing timely, regular, and detailed analysis on nursing and midwifery data. This has informed our workforce interventions and supports and provided an independent evidence base, that we were able to reach for routinely. The research provided us with local, regional and national evidence, which has provided the workforce with a voice during this unforeseen three-year period."

Full results and findings relating to the data have been published at: