Satisfaction and Attrition in the UK Healthcare Sector Over the Past Decade

36 Pages Posted: 27 Dec 2022

See all articles by Neel Ocean

Neel Ocean

University of Warwick

Caroline Meyer

University of Warwick

Date Written: December 15, 2022


Existing literature has highlighted concerns with 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 conditions have become worse over time. We analysed data from the NHS monthly workforce statistics and the UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS) to investigate whether conditions in the NHS appear to have deteriorated over the past decade, both in absolute terms and relative to workers outside the sector. We find that work-life balance accounts for almost three times as many NHS job leavers in 2021 than it did in 2011. Estimated satisfaction with one’s amount of leisure time over the past decade for healthcare workers has fallen by three times the amount that it has fallen for non-healthcare workers. It has also remained lower for healthcare workers than for other public sector workers, as has estimated income satisfaction. Low satisfaction with the amount of leisure time has reduced the likelihood of remaining in healthcare sector in the following year by as much as 22 percentage points over the decade. We conclude that working conditions in UK healthcare have deteriorated over the previous decade, especially relative to the private sector. However, job satisfaction levels in other areas of the public sector have deteriorated faster over the decade than they have in healthcare. The decline in healthcare worker satisfaction may be part of a decline in satisfaction within the UK public sector as a whole.

Keywords: NHS, job satisfaction, well-being, Understanding Society, fixed effects

Suggested Citation

Ocean, Neel and Meyer, Caroline, Satisfaction and Attrition in the UK Healthcare Sector Over the Past Decade (December 15, 2022). Available at SSRN: or

Neel Ocean (Contact Author)

University of Warwick

Gibbet Hill Rd.
Coventry, West Midlands CV4 8UW
United Kingdom

Caroline Meyer

University of Warwick

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