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Views of NHS staff across the region revealed in major survey

Ipswich Hospital.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Ipswich Hospital. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The views of NHS staff across the region have been revealed in a major national survey focused on the working environment.

Stephen Dunn of West Suffolk Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. Picture: ContributedStephen Dunn of West Suffolk Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. Picture: Contributed

The 2017 NHS Staff Survey – the largest workforce survey in the world – was published yesterday to measure staff experience and engagement in the workplace.

Results in the east bucked the national trend and were mainly positive and above average for the country.

The West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (WSFT) came top of the national tables for staff recommending it as a place to work or receive care.

The trust, based in Bury St Edmunds, scored the highest rating in the country (4.12) against other acute hospital trusts in England (average score 3.76) for staff being likely to recommend it to others.

Julie Cave, Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) interim chief executive. Photo: NSFTJulie Cave, Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) interim chief executive. Photo: NSFT

The trust also scored in the top 20% of comparable acutes nationally for good communication between staff and senior managers, staff feeling valued by the organisation, and the trust taking an active interest in the health and wellbeing of its people.

Colchester and Ipswich hospitals – which will be combined into either Colchester and Ipswich NHS Foundation Trust or East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust later this year – also enjoyed largely positive results from the survey.

Ipswich hospital recorded above national average results with 77% of staff happy with the standard of care should a friend or relative needed treatment – up from 75% in 2016. The national average is 71% for acute trusts.

The number of staff recommending the organisation as a place to work or receive treatment also rose to 3.85 from 3.80 in 2016. The national average is 3.76.

Colchester hospital also saw improvements in the survey, with 73% or staff feeling the organisation acted on concerns raised by patients and service users - up from 69% in 2016.

62% of staff were happy with the standard of care should a friend or relative need treatment, increased from 59% in 2016. The national average is 71%.

But staff engagement at the region’s mental health trust had decreased overall since last year’s survey.

The assessment of “care of patients” at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) has dropped from 64% to 58% against a national median of 73%.

Asked whether they would want a friend or relative to have mental health treatment at the trust, only 42% said yes compared to 48% in 2016 and a national median of 61%.

The trust was placed back in special measures in October last year and rated as “inadequate”.

Julie Cave, interim chief executive at the trust, said it would not “sugar-coat” the results and it knows improvements are needed.

Nationally, NHS staff in England are reporting lower satisfaction with the quality of work and care they are able to deliver.

The survey found that 66.8% of staff “agree” or “strongly agree” that they are able to deliver the care they aspire to - down from 68.2% in 2016.

Meanwhile, just 31% agreed that there are enough staff in their organisation to enable them to do their job properly.

And only 31% said they were satisfied with their pay, down from 37% the previous year.

Staff also reported higher rates of feeling unwell due to work-related stress.

However, the poll - conducted by the Survey Coordination Centre, based at Picker, on behalf of NHS England - found that three quarters of staff are enthusiastic about their job and seven in 10 said that if a friend or relative needed treatment, they would be happy with the standard of care provided by their organisation.

West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust response

Jan Bloomfield, director or workforce and communications, said: “We are delighted to have maintained our excellent staff survey results this year. We work hard to make sure that WSFT is a happy, healthy environment for our staff to work.

“We know that staff that feel engaged, happy and supported at work provide the best care, so we look very carefully at our staff survey as an indicator of the quality of care we give to our patients.”

Speaking about an improvement on the number of staff experiencing harassment, bullying or abuse from colleagues, with just 20% reporting issues compared to 25% last year (national average 2017, 25%), Mrs Bloomfield added: “We’re particularly pleased about this.”

“No one should come to work and experience these behaviours from a colleague. We have put huge effort into making sure better support mechanisms are in place for staff, including introducing a Freedom to Speak Up Guardian role, who staff can approach in confidence for support.

“We have an open and honest culture, and we want people to feel safe to raise concerns. While we will always strive for a workplace where 0% of staff experience these issues, these results show that we are certainly going in the right direction and are outperforming many of our peers.”

Chief executive Stephen Dunn said: “We take the views of our staff very seriously – they are truly our most important asset and it’s vital we know what they think and feel about working here.

“The fact that we got the highest score in England for staff recommending us as a place to work or receive care is incredible, and makes me genuinely proud. These results go hand in hand with the excellent clinical outcomes we deliver.

“Our staff make a difference to people’s lives every day, so it’s important that we try and make a difference to theirs and provide the best possible workplace for them to deliver and support patient care, whatever their role. These survey results show that, for the most part, we are on the right lines.

“But we’re not complacent. There is always more to do and we’ll be using these results to work with staff and understand where and how we can improve even further.”

Colchester and Ipswich hospitals response

Clare Edmondson, director of human resources for Colchester and Ipswich hospitals said:

“We’ve called our campaign to share the results of the staff survey across Colchester and Ipswich hospitals and community services One In A Million to reflect the fact that more than a million colleagues working across the NHS took part in this staff survey.

“I feel very proud of some of the very significant improvements that have been made this year in our survey results. I think the survey is a very important barometer for us to guage how our staff feel about their jobs and their organisations.”

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) response

Julie Cave, Interim NSFT Chief Executive said: “We are not going to sugar-coat the results. The report is very disappointing and concerning for our Trust, but more importantly it demonstrates the pressures many of our staff feel they have been under while trying to do the best job they can for our service users and carers.

“The most recent survey was launched just as we received our CQC inspection results which placed us back into special measures and it has been incredibly hard for everyone who works so hard to do an excellent job to read about our Trust in such negative terms. The last thing we want is for these results to demotivate our staff further, or demotivate those who feel more positive than this report might suggest.

“But we must be honest and openly discuss these results in order to start moving our Trust into a more positive position for the future; making those positive changes lies in our hands, and together with our staff we need to change our culture.

“We know we can improve the situation as we have so done before; in our previous survey in 2016 we saw real improvements in how our staff felt about working for our Trust. In fact, our staff engagement score was six times the national rate of improvement, year on year.

“Sadly, we did not fully embed the improvements we made in order to affect staff morale in the longer term. That is not good for any of us; it has to change, and it will.

“Just like the hard work our staff are putting in to improve things for our service users, this time we have to do things differently for our staff too, and we need to make sure they stick. No-one expects things to change overnight, it’s going to be a long and steady process which will be constantly monitored, but we are clear that we need to get moving again and to start proving that we will change things in our Trust in the medium and long term.”

Julie explained that a number of initiatives are already underway at the trust to improve staff satisfaction and to encourage more direct feedback.

“We have launched a project to review all of the staffing levels in our teams, as we know that in some areas high levels of vacancies can directly impact staff morale, and staff can feel they are unable to do the best job they can,” she said.

“And we are already rolling out management and staff development programmes, as well as focusing on improving the rate and quality of staff appraisals. To encourage staff to speak to us directly our Board members have been making many more visits to wards and community teams, as well as offering regular drop-in sessions for staff across the Trust.”

Other initiatives being launched have included programmes to support staff avoid and manage stress; to support those who may have been affected by a traumatic incident; and a review on how to better support staff who have concerns of bullying or harassment.

The trust also recently introduced a Freedom to Speak Up Guardian role, one of the first Trusts in the country to do so, which provides another avenue for staff to confidentially raise any concerns.

“We are also soon to launch ‘pulse’ staff surveys so that we can better understand the issues affecting staff at a local level, and to enable us to drill right down to team level, and respond quicker if there are issues.

“All of this will be supported by locally engaging with staff, listening to their concerns and hearing from them on what will make things better for them and then doing something about it.”

National reaction

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, which represents employers in the health service, said: “The country needs to take these challenging results seriously. We cannot expect staff to absorb additional work pressures year on year without it having an adverse effect on their experience of work.

“It’s disappointing but understandable that staff are less satisfied with the standard of care they are able to provide and that they are feeling more stressed.

“I am however encouraged that staff continue to be willing to recommend the NHS as a place to be cared for.”

Neil Churchill, director of patient experience at NHS England, said: “Staff are going above and beyond to deliver the best care under pressure and these results show that staff appreciate the efforts of managers to listen, support and act on staff concerns.

“Nevertheless there are warning signs NHS employers will need to do all they can to ensure the NHS supports our staff to deliver the high standards expected by patients.”

Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “These figures bear out the warnings from nurses on the NHS frontline - patient care standards are heading in the wrong direction and nursing staff will not accept it.

“But it also reveals the sharpest of all rises in dissatisfaction with pay, now standing at 45% of the workforce - up by more than 7% in a single year. It is a timely reminder for the Chancellor that years of unfair pay deals have taken their toll and a meaningful rise is long overdue.

“More than half of NHS staff report working unpaid overtime every single week. Ministers must stop treating the goodwill and dedication of NHS staff as a replacement for adequate funding and proper workforce planning. Continuing down this path is unfair, and untenable.”

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