The Scalpel's Blog

16.04.19

Our Health Heroes

Dean Royles, strategic workforce advisor at Skills for Health and co-author of ‘An Introduction to Human Resource Management,’ discusses the upcoming Our Health Heroes Awards.

There are many metaphors to describe staff working in healthcare. Junior doctors have been described as the ‘backbone’ of the NHS, nurses are often referred to as ‘angels’, general practitioners as the ‘bedrock’ of the NHS… and I could go on.

These positive descriptions of staff working in the NHS are clearly indicative of an institution that is so important to the lives of so many people in the UK. The NHS itself is often described as a national treasure and, in my view, rightly so! These positive references don’t blind us to the failings in the system and the times when care goes wrong, but they do remind us just how often the NHS gets it right when it comes to the care and treatment of patients. No easy task when so many people will access the NHS at times of worry, fear and anxiety. It is why care and compassion are so important in maintaining and sustaining the reputation of the NHS as such a well-loved institution and national treasure.

Although many use the nomenclature of doctors and nurses as shorthand for staff working in the NHS, the NHS actually employs around 1.5 million staff, working in just about every occupational group you’ll find in the wider community. So, in addition to doctors and nurses, the NHS employs plumbers and porters, scientists and speech therapists, pharmacists and physiotherapists, and, because I’ve run out of alliterative examples, engineers, carpenters, administrative staff, managers, occupational therapists, cleaners, secretaries, playworkers, nursery nurses, dentists, human resource officers, payroll clerks, gardeners and … well, you get the point.

It is clear to anyone working in the NHS the reason it does so well when care and compassion are what matters most is down to effective team work. The experience of compassion and care doesn’t just come from doctors and nurses, but from the whole healthcare team. From the receptionists that smile warmly when people arrive, to the ward clerk that takes personal details, to the cleaners that say ‘hello’ and ‘good morning’ helping to put people at ease, to the healthcare assistant who delivers personal and dignified care, to the reassurance of the nurse in charge and opinion and the advice of the doctor – it all contributes significantly to the experience of great care that millions of people every week receive from the NHS.

The Our Health Heroes awards, organised by Skills for Health, is a fantastic opportunity to recognise those in that wider healthcare team that go the extra mile to make that experience of care so personal and so important. You can’t incentivise staff to deliver amazing care, you can’t put compassion in a job description and just expect it to happen. It is a display of the core values so evident in the NHS

We are truly fortunate to have so many staff in the NHS that have the core values needed and the sense of vocation that comes from really making a difference to people’s lives.

Metaphors like ‘angels’ and ‘backbone’ and ‘bedrock’ have their place, but ‘heroes’ is a word that can be applied to so many of our staff, often working in those under-appreciated roles of support workers.

If you are working in the NHS or use its services, do look around for those everyday heroes and take just a few moments to nominate them.

Visit: skillsforhealth.org.uk/ohh 

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