press release
Published: 25 August 2020

Levels of stress and burnout of NHS staff during Covid-19 to be examined

By Natasha Meredith

An innovative new study from the University of Surrey is set to examine the experiences of NHS staff during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The team, led by Lorna French, is seeking to understand the experiences of NHS staff who have felt additional stress and burnout during this period. The team will look to find out whether these feelings are linked to action (or lack of action) that violated an individual’s ‘moral code’ or feelings that leadership acted in a way that betrayed ‘what is right.’

Findings from this study will help inform guidelines and support for staff that have been working clinically during the pandemic.

Figures from a 2019 NHS Employers report found that stress accounts for over 30 per cent of sickness absence in the NHS, costing the service £300-400 million per year. Due to unprecedented working conditions and increased workloads of NHS staff due to the Covid-19 pandemic, these figures are expected to rise, leading to increased burnout of staff.

Lorna French, Trainee Clinical Psychologist at the University of Surrey, said: “The outbreak of Covid-19 has put enormous pressure on the NHS itself and its staff, leading to increased levels of stress and burnout. Such unprecedented times have led to quick and often difficult decisions having to be made by those in leadership roles, some of which may have caused unease for staff on the frontline, adding to their stress levels and compromising their beliefs around what is right.”

Dr Paul Hanna, Clinical Psychology Research Director at the University of Surrey, said: “This project is part of a larger body of Covid-19 research we are undertaking in collaboration with our colleagues in the NHS. It is important that we learn what has worked well during this pandemic and what has not so that we can implement measures that can support our NHS workforce.”

If you are a clinical NHS employee and would like to take part in this study, please contact Lorna French (

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