• HSIB staff survey reveals concerns about staff being scared to speak up
  • However, HSIB survey was positive overall with an 86 per cent engagement score
  • Staff complained decisions are not communicated and management were distant

Staff working at the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch are “scared to speak out” and fear losing their jobs, while others are critical of poor communication and hierarchical management, its first staff survey has revealed. 

Although the safety watchdog scored highly for overall engagement, with a majority of staff praising the organisation and its work, one in five (19 per cent) staff members strongly disagree or disagree that ”bullying, harassment and discrimination are not tolerated here”, although slightly over half (56 per cent) strongly agree or agree with this sentiment. 

Meanwhile, less than half (49 per cent) of staff surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that “people communicate openly here regardless of position or level”, while 29 per cent strongly disagree or disagree with that statement.

Negative comments from staff to the staff survey included:

  • Levels of hierarchy increasing in the organisation which goes completely against the vision and values we are set up with. Disconnect from the exec team;
  • There is a hierarchy of communication which does not encourage constructive criticism;
  • At times people are scared to speak out because of secondment or FTC [fixed term contract], fear of losing their jobs;
  • A number of decisions are made and not communicated. The structure of the organisation allows for people to feel isolated;
  • I feel the entire organisation as a whole isn’t quite cohesive enough. There are aspects that feel a bit fragmented, particularly the differences between teams. I think some more joined up working across the teams would help;
  • A more focused acknowledgement of the emotional side of the job should be considered;
  • Need to achieve a better work life balance through reviewing the workload; and
  • Everyone is working long hours… in excess of 45 to 50 hours a week… it is not for the faint hearted.

The staff survey comes after HSJ revealed earlier this year there were widespread concerns among staff about the way HSIB was operating with whistleblowers, citing poor governance and culture.

More than 90 per cent of staff working for the investigation body,  which was set up in 2017 to independently investigate serious safety incidents and recommend system-wide changes, took part in the survey. Eighty per cent of those responding said they would want to still be working for HSIB in two years and 88 per cent said they were proud of the organisation. Its total engagement score was 86 per cent, 11 per cent above HSIB’s benchmark organisations.

The top three scoring statements from the survey were:

  • I care about the future of HSIB (98 per cent of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed);
  • I find my work interesting and challenging (94 per cent either agreed or strongly agreed); and
  • My immediate team work together (94 per cent either agreed or strongly agreed).

In free text comments, one worker said: “The work we do can have a national impact to patient safety and make real change to the NHS.” Another said teamwork was strong, and others cited the challenge of work and the commitment shown by people to do their best.

One said: “Being independent of other organisations within health allows us to investigate without bias or external pressure.”

Another praised the efforts of putting families at the heart of HSIB’s work.

Meanwhile, the three statements which staff least agreed with from the survey were:

  • Decision making by senior leaders is open and transparent (34 per cent of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed);
  • Different parts of the organisation work well together (38 per cent either agreed or strongly agreed); and
  • I rarely feel stressed because of work (40 per cent either agreed or strongly agreed).

An HSIB spokesperson said of the overall results: “Compared to many organisations this is extremely encouraging, and shows our staff are not only engaged but see our organisation as essential in ensuring patient safety is improved across the NHS.

“We know we have work to do as our staff are our greatest asset and we will be working with them over the coming months. We are determined to address any concerns or issues.”

In a message to staff, shared with HSJ, Keith Conradi, HSIB’s chief investigator, said the survey provided a rich picture of what staff felt about the organisation, adding the response rate far exceeded expectations.

He told staff: “Over the coming months, once we have analysed your responses, we will develop a plan to act on your feedback.”