The powerful link between staff and patient satisfaction

Source: NHE Sep/Oct 16

David Behan CBE, chief executive of the Care Quality Commission (CQC), talks to NHE about the correlation between high rates of staff satisfaction and improved patient experience.

“The link between satisfied and engaged staff and satisfied and engaged patients is powerful,” David Behan, the chief executive of the CQC, told NHE, and is an “invaluable opportunity” for trusts to improve services. 

Speaking to us after iWantGreatCare’s 7th National Symposium: ‘Building fantastic staff morale, improving quality and reducing costs’, Behan said it is essential that any organisation – be it a hospital trust or business – gets feedback from the people using its services, so they know that it is working for them. 

The importance of patient feedback 

During his presentation at the Symposium he noted that, over the years, the CQC has used multiple methods to find out what people think about their care, which has been invaluable to its work. 

“For instance, our inspectors will speak to the public and patients before, during and after the inspection; we have contact with overview and scrutiny committees; and we make contact with local Healthwatch groups as part of our inspection,” said Behan. 

“But we also have some direct channels which we call ‘Tell us about Your Care’ where people can share their experience.

“The majority of this is through email, and we get lots and lots of feedback. About three-quarters of the information we get is a concern, and the other quarter is usually about positive experiences. It is valuable to us.

“We also analyse the comments about services which are posted on other services – NHS Choices, Patient Opinion, iWantGreatCare – and we also run our regular national surveys and have various arrangements in place with organisations that people visit to share their care stories.” 

Staff surveys: an ‘invaluable opportunity’ 

But the one tool that the CQC boss said is an “invaluable opportunity” for improving services for patients and staff at trusts is the staff surveys. 

“We find high staff satisfaction correlates with high patient satisfaction, and trusts where staff wouldn’t recommend the trust correlates, quite often, with a ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’ rating,” he said. “We think that staff surveys give providers, hospitals and trusts a really invaluable opportunity to make sure that they can respond effectively to people using services. 

“There is a distinct correlation between high staff satisfaction and high patient satisfaction, and that is why we are interested in patient surveys, because it gives us an insight – it isn’t definitive – into what the reporting and safety in a trust is like.” 

Shining a light on best practice 

Behan noted that the CQC’s work, as well as highlighting where improvements can be made, can help shine a light on areas of best practice where patient engagement has led to improved outcomes. 

For example, he highlighted the work being done at East London NHS FT and Northumbria Healthcare NHS FT, which contributed to the regulator rating them as ‘outstanding’ overall. 

At Northumbria, the trust has a director for patient experience who has developed the capture of real-time patient feedback regarding services provided by the trust called ‘Two Minutes of Your Time’. This includes obtaining feedback during the patient stay and three months following discharge, said Behan, and information about real-time patient experience is displayed on wards and in clinic areas. 

At East London, the CQC saw that staff worked with patients and their carers to ensure they were “partners in their care”. Patients were supported to express their wishes, Behan noted, and they were active participants in all the meetings where their care was discussed. 

“The fact that we see this happening in Northumbria and at East London and other trusts demonstrates it can be done, staff morale can be high and that can drive good outcomes for patients, which is why we are all in this at the end of the day,” he concluded.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email


ADM   20/04/2017 at 11:02

David' remarks were/ are of course spot on. However, the link between service satisfaction, productivity and staff satisfaction is long established across other sectors, globally. While the NHS may be unique, it still involves people; behaviors (and results) will be similar to elsewhere. If only there was less putting it on a pedestal and more recognition of the opportunity to learn from the history of others. Approaching the NHS as a modern service industry doesn't necessarily mean privatizing it.

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