Staff engagement in the NHS - Part 3

25 February 2021

The 2020 NHS Staff Survey results will be published on 11 March 2021. What a year the NHS has had – it will be fascinating to hear what staff say especially in relation to health and wellbeing and staff engagement.

The NHS Staff Survey is one of the largest workforce surveys in the world and has been conducted every year since 2003. It asks NHS staff in England about their experiences of working for their respective NHS organisations. The survey provides essential information to employers and national stakeholders about staff experience across the NHS in England. Participation is mandatory for trusts and voluntary for non-trust organisations (CCGs, CSUs, social enterprises). The Survey imagesurvey does not cover primary care staff.

It’s interesting to look back at recent NHS staff surveys and see what’s been happening.

In 2019, 569,440 NHS staff responded. This is a 48% response rate (up from 46% in 2018).

Health and wellbeing

In 2019, 29.3% of respondents said their trust definitely takes positive action on health & wellbeing. This is an improvement since 2018 (28.6%) but still remains below the proportions in 2015-2017. Community trusts saw the greatest improvement since 2018, a 3 percentage point increase (2018: 31.9%, 2019: 34.6%).

40.3% of respondents reported feeling unwell as a result of work-related stress in the last 12 months. This proportion has been steadily increasing since 2016 (36.8%).

Staff engagement

The theme score for staff engagement was 7.0 in 2019, which has been the same since 2015

Over the last 5 years, most benchmarking groups have scored close to the national average on staff engagement, with Acute Specialist Trusts continually performing the best on this measure. Ambulance trusts have been improving on this measure since 2015, but have always achieved the worst score of the benchmarking groups.

74.0% of respondents said they are able to make suggestions to improve the work of their team. In ambulance trusts only 52.8% agreed/strongly agreed that they were able to make suggestions to improve the work of their team/department.

NHS People Plan

Last year, NHS England and Improvement published the NHS People Plan which sets out what the people of the NHS can expect – from their leaders and from each other – for the rest of 2020 and into 2021.

NHS England and Improvement say the experience of COVID-19 has thrown into even sharper relief the need to engage with and listen to people working in the NHS.

We have had lots of conversations with NHS staff about engagement over the last 6 months. We know they often use long form emails and an intranet for engagement as well as Facebook Groups. Data on engagement using these channels is rarely available but our contacts suspect that many people do not read the emails, go to the intranet or access the Facebook groups. This may be due to working patterns that do not involve being at a computer, a lack of laptops for all staff or just personal preferences. 

We hope the NHS will make every effort to continue to engage with staff and listen to them in a variety of ways including using the best available technology to make this a reality.

Catherine Davies is an adviser to tech companies partnering with the NHS so people get the care they need

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#NHS Clinical Communications Tools Framework, #staff engagement