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15.01.14

Happier staff deliver better healthcare

Staff engagement must be accelerated to improve quality of care, a new report urges.

The Point of Care Foundation has highlighted that greater staff engagement leads to improved patient care, efficiency and financial performance.

Patient satisfaction is highest in trusts with better rates of staff health and wellbeing, and there is even a link between staff satisfaction and lower rates of mortality and hospital-acquired infection.

If sickness absence was reduced by a third, the NHS could save £555m a year, the report suggests. Approximately 30% of sickness absence is due to stress.

The Point of Care Foundation has called for support for staff to be made central to trust strategies for improving patient care and productivity. The report recommends that managers should articulate their values in plain English, and give staff responsibility and authority to solve the problems they think affect patient care, as well as training line managers in people management skills.

Director Jocelyn Cornwell said: “It’s the experiences of staff that shape patients’ experiences of care, for good or ill, not the other way around. Working in healthcare ought to rank amongst the best jobs in the world, but far too many healthcare professionals feel over-worked, disempowered and unappreciated.

“Caring for patients is very hard and challenging work. Boards need to support managers at every level so that they in turn support staff to deliver the best possible patient care.

“We want the NHS to be notable for being not only the largest employer in the country, but also the best. There is much good practice in the NHS, but for it to become the norm we need to close the gap between rhetoric and reality.”

Sue Covill, director of employment services at the NHS Employers organisation, said: “This report builds on several over the past year that have highlighted the ever-growing importance of the link between staff engagement and patient care. These tell us collectively, in short, that staff who feel valued provide better care and that better care means better patient experience and outcomes. And we are clearly seeing incremental improvements despite reorganisations, incredibly tight resources and reports highlighting the need for new systems, processes and regulations. It's testament to hugely committed NHS managers and staff.

“But we know there is no quick fix. Like other sectors in the economies experiencing fundamental change, this is about culture change and to pretend otherwise will lead to unsustainable solutions. We need to support managers, most of whom also have clinical commitments, in developing top notch people management skills and the time to put in place sustainable solutions.

“Last year was, according to most commentators, tumultuous for the NHS. And yet it was a year that saw staff engagement increase and sickness absence reduce. I understand the clear ambition NHS leaders have to be even more patient-centred and the challenges of making that happen. Let's have more praise for them when they get it right in this incredibly challenging period.”

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