I recently attended Nottingham University Hospitals Trust’s annual staff awards ceremony, a few days after some of my colleagues were present at November’s HSJ Awards.

Both of these events celebrate success and recognise the excellent contributions of colleagues and teams who improve patient care and staff experience. These occasions provide valuable time to reflect and celebrate outstanding achievements.

But once a year isn’t often enough to have such reflections. We should and can do more throughout the year to acknowledge excellent work and innovative ideas that are implemented promptly and bring improvements for patients and staff.

One example is an idea from one of our logistics colleagues to start recycling unwanted furniture and office supplies. An intranet site was developed in a matter of days and launched to staff. In a few months the “swap shop” has been used by many hundreds staff, saving the organisation tens of thousands of pounds.

Such ideas are the result of staff feeling empowered to make changes. This is helping to transform the culture of our organisation.

Commenting on the new swap shop, one of our receptionists said: “We think this site is absolutely great. We have now managed to recycle two printers and another item, helping someone else and also freeing up space in our department.”

At Nottingham we have invested time, resources and energy on what we call “just do its” through Better for You, our established hospital-wide change programme. It’s our response to the financial and quality challenges the NHS faces. The “just do it” recognition scheme is designed to empower staff to suggest new ideas and implement them – by simply trying them out. More than 6,000 ideas have been submitted by staff so far.

Through “just do it” awards, staff are being empowered and recognised for putting forward solutions to what are often long-standing problems or frustrations. The process doesn’t stop with the idea being tried and tested and then implemented.

“Just do it” has become a formal recognition scheme, which our trust board attends during the year to recognise this work, demonstrating board to ward commitment.

One idea presented to the board recently by some of our colleagues was the introduction of a standardised process for scheduling patients into our cardiac cath labs. Following the merger of our hospitals, there were 50 procedures being carried out in the labs and 13 different types of paper referral forms being used. This led to late changes to patient lists and lab staff running tests that could have been carried out on the wards.

Staff in the labs created a standardised operational scheduling procedure to ensure clear roles and responsibilities and no wasted time. The benefits to patients and staff were clear.

With the many competing demands on our organisation – the unprecedented financial challenges we face and the pressures the system faces as we head into the busy winter period – it would be all too easy for staff reward and recognition schemes to take a back seat.

But that isn’t our philosophy at NUH. We make time to give due focus to the issues of the day and ensure adequate time for learning, reflecting and sharing good practice. Only by getting this balance right will we begin to change the culture and improve staff satisfaction.

We believe effective ideas schemes, good internal communications and reward and recognition are the cornerstones of effective staff engagement. If we can get these right we hope this will translate into higher levels of staff satisfaction. Our staff survey results and local surveys will be the ultimate test.

We must also give greater thought to how we share this good practice across our organisation.

Often what has been effective in one area can be applied equally in another. This of course applies to clinical and non-clinical areas of work. This will be an area of focus for us as we seek to do even better when it comes to staff engagement over the coming year.