NHS staff report feeling more satisfied in their jobs and more supported by their managers, but a minority of organisations are not committed to improving engagement, according to the Department of Health.

The NHS staff survey, published last week, showed overall staff satisfaction improved from a score of 3.47 out of 5 in 2008 to 3.50 in 2009. The degree to which employees feel supported by their immediate management rose from 3.60 to 3.63.

The percentage who have been appraised in the past year jumped from 64 to 69

DH director general of workforceClare Chapman told HSJ: “These are the best results the NHS has posted and that is a demonstration that boards have recognised the importance of it and that you can improve it.

“There are some that have not. There are about two thirds of boards who are working on improvement quite significantly and a section that are not. That brings the average [in a region or nationally] down.”

The proportion reporting good communication with senior management increased 1 per cent to 27 per cent and those feeling they have opportunities to develop their potential from 43 per cent to 44 per cent. Employees’ rating of whether they have adequate time, equipment and staff to do their job properly fell from 3.10 to 3.08.

The proportion of staff feeling able to contribute towards improvements at work fell slightly - from 64 to 63 per cent. Ms Chapman said that might be because the survey was carried out in the autumn, when senior staff were busy working on the pandemic flu response.

The percentage who have been appraised in the past year jumped from 64 to 69 and those who had a well structured appraisal rose by 4 per cent but still stood at only 31 per cent.

It is one reflection of many trusts not properly applying the Agenda for Change knowledge and skills framework. The DH and unions say any reduction in the pay bill outside the national deal must be through wider and deeper application of the framework, which could mean fewer staff receiving pay increments.

Ms Chapman said the DH, managers and unions were working on a simplified version of the framework, which is seen by many employers as too complex and expensive to apply.

She said: “We are about to move into a world where appraisal, based on a clearly defined job role, is going to be something that delivers high quality care.”

It comes as several foundation trusts are considering moves which may be considered outside of Agenda for Change, including holding back part of the 2.25 per cent pay increase until later than April.