Danny Mortimer notes that the recent NHS Staff Survey results suggest there are reasons to be optimistic, but there are still areas for improvement
The NHS needs people. It needs to recruit more of them, and it needs to keep those it already has, and we must be frank about the challenges in those areas.
The latest results of the NHS Staff Survey, therefore, present some reasons to be hopeful – staff engagement, satisfaction with pay and flexible working, and a feeling of being recognised and valued have all improved, in a context of greater demand and complexity, but also, I would argue, in response to a focus in the last year on improving pay and actions to improve retention.
Areas of improvement
But we must not ignore the fact that there were several major areas where our people are reporting events and experiences that are unacceptable.
Importantly, staff are telling employers that there is still more to do to address the issue of discrimination and bullying.
We cannot tolerate the fact that staff feel undermined, bullied, and under threat of violence, or face discrimination of any kind. This is why the work of Workforce Race Equality Standard is so vital and it’s why the social partnership forum issued its call for action on bullying in our teams, workplaces and system.
There is also more to be done to help support staff health and well-being, where there has been a steady decline in results, and especially in those reporting feeling unwell as a result of work-related stress, which showed the worst result in the last five years.
Employers will be looking for support from government to improve the use of the apprenticeship levy, maintain the ability to tap into the talent pool across the world, and reform the pension scheme
Caring for our people is an essential part of caring for our patients. NHS Employers itself offers various well-received tools and resources for employers to use and there is an enormous amount of best practice across the NHS, but this only goes so far in the face of extreme pressure across the health service.
The investment in the NHS confirmed by the government will thankfully go some way to easing pressures on our teams. But it will be far more difficult to make enough of a difference if we cannot recruit and retain more people.
It’s clear that we need more action in the workplace, and employers accept their responsibility in that regard. They welcome the approach that Navina Evans, Peter Homa, Julian Hartley and Dido Harding are developing in terms of addressing these issues so that all NHS organisations, national and local, create a more supportive leadership culture and environment for all staff.
It is important that we recognise that steps have already been taken, such as investment in non-medical pay, leading to more competitive starting salaries in the NHS
Other national action is also needed, and not always within the NHS. Having said that, it is important that we recognise that steps have already been taken, such as investment in non-medical pay, leading to more competitive starting salaries in the NHS.
The government has also removed nurses and doctors from the migration “cap”, and NHS England has launched the first major recruitment campaign in more than 10 years.
But there is much more to do.
Role of employers
Employers will be looking for support from government to improve the use of the apprenticeship levy, maintain the ability to tap into the vast talent pool across the world, and reform the pension scheme, which will naturally aid retention.
Employers accept the central role they themselves must play in improving the working environment and engagement of their teams, building on the progress they have made to date but also addressing the areas where we let our people down.
They are focused on these issues like never before, and they look forward to focused help from national leaders in the NHS and elsewhere in government.