Working for the NHS: mixed messages

Hospital care

The 2015 NHS Staff Survey, published on February 23rd 2016 by NHS England and the Picker Institute, is the largest ever collection of feedback about what it is like to work in the NHS in England.  With nearly 300,000 responses, the survey provides very reliable evidence both nationally and for 297 participating organisations and shows that:
Overall staff engagement has improved continuously over the last five years. The majority of staff (69%) agreed or strongly agreed that they would be happy with the standard of care their organisation provided if a friend or relative needed treatment.    Most staff (80%) agree that they are “able to do [their] job to a standard [they are] personally pleased with”. Many staff feel under pressure: only 31% agree that there are enough staff at their organisations to enable them to do their jobs properly, and 37% reported feeling unwell due to work related stress in the last year. As in previous years, results for ambulance trusts were typically much poorer than for other organisation types
Commenting on the results, Chris Graham, the Picker Institute’s Director of Research & Policy and chief investigator for the survey, said: “The results of the NHS Staff Survey provide unparalleled insight into the experiences of staff working in the NHS in England.  Today’s publication shows welcome improvements in some key measures of staff experience, including overall engagement and staff willingness to recommend their organisations. These improvements represent continuation of a general upward trend and are very encouraging.
Despite the positive messages about staff engagement, the survey also shows evidence that staff across the NHS are struggling with the pressures facing them.  Too many staff complain about inadequate resources, staffing shortages, and the deleterious impact of their work on their own health and wellbeing.  Furthermore, results show considerable variation across and within different types of organisation.
We call on all employers to closely review their results and take action to ensure staff are supported and listened to.  After all, staff wellbeing is not only important in and of itself, but it is also an essential driver of productivity and patient experience: staff experience cannot and must not be ignored.”
The HSJ highlighted some further points:
The results of the 2015 poll, carried out from September to December, show working extra hours has reached a peak. Almost three quarters of NHS staff, 73 per cent, said they work extra hours, up from its lowest level of 64 per cent in 2011.

The percentage of staff seeing potentially harmful errors, near misses or incidents in the last month was at its lowest level for five years at 29 per cent compared with 33 per cent in 2011.

A quarter of staff reported experiencing harassment, bullying or abuse from colleagues in the last 12 months, an increase of 1 per cent from 2014. However, the survey also revealed significant under-reporting, with the number of staff reporting the most recent incident of bullying dropping by 3 per cent to 38 per cent.

Danny Mortimer, Chief Executive of the NHS Employers organisation, added:
“The annual survey reflects the commitment of NHS staff to deliver excellent patient care amidst immense pressure and challenges facing the health service. I am pleased to see progress in areas such as staff engagement and confidence in raising concerns. The survey also highlights however, areas where more action must be taken, such as work pressure on staff and poor behaviour, including bullying.

“The variation in staff experience across the NHS remains a real concern for employers, and Boards will want to do more to address this. NHS Employers will continue to support NHS organisations with a range of resources and by sharing practical examples of good practice including those related to the physical and mental wellbeing of staff, as well as staff engagement and diversity.”

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