Healthcare organisations with happy staff are more likely to have satisfied patients, the Healthcare Commission has revealed.

Results of analysis by the commission released this week show evidence of an association between a positive staff experience of work and the workplace and the positive experience of hospital inpatients.

The study, led by Veena Raleigh, a fellow in information policy at the commission, examined the responses of 70,000 frontline staff from the 2006 NHS staff survey from 166 acute and specialist trusts across England.

It then looked to see if there was significant correlation with the 81,000 responses to the 2006 patient survey.

Answers in the patient survey were compared with staff survey responses to 28 questions.

Positive associations appearing most frequently in the staff survey included the availability of hand washing materials, witnessing and reporting of errors, well structured appraisals, managerial support and health and safety training.

Close correlations with these positive factors were discovered where patients reported good experiences in the areas of respect and dignity, staff and patient interactions, the availability of information and cleanliness as well as with overall ratings.

"Similar patterns and themes emerged in quite different areas of patient experience," Dr Raleigh said. "The hypothesis was staff experience impacts on patient experience.

"It is not impossible that it works the other way around and we need to consider all of the data in the round. We cannot demonstrate causality here but, I think, it's a pretty plausible hypothesis."

Dr Raleigh stressed that in the light of the NHS operating framework's priorities on improving patient experience and staff satisfaction and the next stage review, the relationship between staff and patient experience was important.

Provisional results from work on the 2007 patient and staff surveys appear broadly similar.

HSJ's Nursing Workforce Forum is on 18 September

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