The morale of NHS IT staff working in primary care has declined greatly as job losses and job changes have taken effect, according to EHI Primary Care’s latest survey.

The exclusive survey was completed by just over 100 directors, managers, and staff working for health informatics services, primary care IT departments and emerging commissioning support units.

It suggests the effects of the massive overhaul of NHS organisations triggered by the ‘Liberating the NHS’ reforms have taken a huge toll.

More than two-thirds of respondents (68%) said the impact of the reorganisation had led to a ‘great decline’ in morale at their organisation, while a further 21% said morale had declined ‘slightly’.

Only 2% of respondents reported a ‘slight increase’ in morale – and none reported a ‘great’ increase.

The EHI PC survey found that just over half of respondents (55%) were confident of keeping their jobs; or at least not being made redundant.

A further 20% expected to lose their jobs in the next few months and a further 15% did not yet know what their future may hold.

The NHS Commissioning Board had made a pledge that all staff would know their future by the end of this month.

One respondent told EHI PC: “It’s been 18 months of uncertainty and staff leaving. Those that are left are stressed, demoralised and angry.”

Another said: “The rest of the organisation has had structures designed and jobs advertised and people recruited – IT has not, we are in limbo.”

Roz Foad, chair of the British Computer Society Primary Healthcare Specialist Group, said she understood the scale of the redundancies was likely to be at least the 20% of the workforce revealed by the survey.

She added: “Morale in primary care management is at the lowest I have ever known it.

"After each reshuffle the NHS has a long history of making people redundant just before Christmas, in order to get in the three months’ notice in before 1 April. But it doesn’t make it any easier.”

Dr David Jenner, a local area chair with Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group and a senior policy adviser to the NHS Alliance, said he was also not surprised by the reports of falling morale.

He told EHI PC: “I think a lot of people are not quite sure where they are going to end up.

"With the NHS Commissioning Board passing GP IT to CCGs like a hot potato, I think a lot of primary care IT staff feel they are not loved or owned by anyone.”

The NHS changes, which come into effect on 1 April next year, are expected to see a loss of up to 20,000 NHS staff as PCTs and strategic health authorities are scrapped, and their roles transferred to the NHS CB and its local arms, CCGs and CSUs.

Around half of those working for PCTs and SHAs are expected to be transferred to or be able to apply for jobs with the new organisations in the NHS, including NHS CB local area teams, CSUs and CCGs.

The survey found that 15% of respondents had already moved jobs as a result of the changes and a further 30% expected to do so by March next year.

Of those moving jobs, a third reported that they were being transferred to a new job by ‘lift and shift’ arrangements, either going to a CSU (17%), CCG (7%), local area team (7%) or local authority (2%).

The remaining two-thirds were applying for jobs in the new organisations, with 17% applying for jobs in CSUs and 12% hoping to get a job with a CCG.

One respondent said: “Despite having to reapply and be reinterviewed for my current role, I expect that I will be offered one of two positions.

“The worst part about it all has been the time it has taken and the amount of false starts and half-truths associated with the whole process… It’s been likened to mental torture.”

Another respondent said: “I have literally no idea what will happen to me or the team I work in, so I am looking at all jobs as a fallback.”

The majority of respondents (29%) expected to be working for a CSU from next April and while 11% expected to be working for a PCT.

However, a greater number (18%) said they would prefer to be working for a local area team if given the chance. Just 2% said they expected to move to a job for the private sector in health.

One respondent said: “As a taxpayer I am disappointed with the fact that I currently save the NHS more than I cost (proved by CIP process) but will, as a result of redundancy (and taking a six figure package), probably end up in the private sector.”

The survey was conducted in November and December 2012 and completed by 105 respondents working mainly in PCT IT departments (40%) and health informatics services (17%); with other staff working in local area teams (9%), NHS Connecting for Health (6%) CCGs (5%) and CSUs (3%).

The majority of respondents were senior managers (30%) or managers (30%) with 10% of respondents working as directors and 30% specifying their role as staff member (30%). Further coverage of the survey will follow in the New Year.