Trusts are taking inspiration from other sectors to help ensure NHS staff join the service with the right values and can put them into practice throughout their careers

If you ask anyone why they are working in the NHS, it won’t be long before you hear about personal values. It is always heart warming to hear but often I wonder how we can best ensure that personal values can be expressed in collective terms everyone in the organisation understands. Can they endure from recruitment to retirement?

‘Employers recognise that improving the recruitment process alone won’t be enough to bring about the culture change we need’

Since the Francis report was published, “culture” and “values” have been the words on most people’s lips. Two of the underlying aims of Robert Francis’ recommendations were to “foster a common culture shared by all in the service of putting the patient first”, and to “enhance the recruitment, education, training and support of all the key contributors to the provision of healthcare… to integrate the essential shared values of the common culture into everything they do”.

NHS Employers has been working with Health Education England and employers on how we can help put this into practice and how we can build on those places where it is already happening.

Critical management role

Employers recognise that improving the recruitment process alone won’t be enough to bring about the culture change we need − there is also a critical role for managers and leaders to play. We need to consider every stage of people’s careers, not only looking at values when we recruit into education and then into employment, but critically also supporting staff through their induction and ongoing performance management through appraisal and promotion and selection for training and development.

‘Many trusts have taken inspiration and advice from best practice in other sectors’

This is not new. The NHS has long recognised that embedding the right values, attitudes and behaviours in its workforce is a vital element in the provision of excellent patient care. However, this imperative is now clearer than ever. Employers get it and they are keen to learn from others and share their experiences.

Workshops on this topic are often oversubscribed, demonstrating the level of interest. Employers know they don’t get it right all the time and they know where some of the barriers are. For example, we still have too many cases of bullying. But that doesn’t detract them from wanting to be better and building on what’s good.

Many trusts have taken inspiration and advice from best practice in other sectors, where businesses and charities have seen the worth of “values based recruitment”. This could involve using question banks, situational judgement tests or assessment centres, for example.

It requires investment in terms of time and training, but if it is done properly that investment can pay off big time, saving time and resources due to fewer poor quality applications, improving attendance at interview, reducing turnover and ultimately ensuring a better fit between the successful candidate and the role.

Evaluate the impact

We need to continually evaluate the impact of value based recruitment in the NHS. However, the early signs are encouraging. York Teaching Hospital found using value based recruitment for healthcare assistants contributed to a reduction in staff turnover from 17 per cent to 12 per cent, and an almost 30 per cent reduction in sickness absence, as well as other benefits.

NHS Employers will be gathering the evidence and developing practical tools. These will help employers use value based recruitment to foster a common culture, shared by all in the service, of putting the patient first.

Although a big chunk of our media coverage is about pay and pensions, the thousands of visits to our web site every week show that recruitment, wellbeing and staff engagement are also massive issues for HR departments. HR folk aren’t waiting for the government’s response to Francis’ recommendations − they are on the front foot now and picking up the pieces. That’s got to be good for patients.

Dean Royles is chief executive at NHS Employers and interim chief executive at the NHS Confederation