Alternative facts about the NHS Staff Survey 2016

Steven Weeks

To mark the announcement of the 2016 NHS Staff Survey results, Steven Weeks policy manager and staff engagement lead at NHS Employers, discusses the positive message the results send, the issues that sill lie ahead and how local action has helped organisations achieve new levels of engagement.

The 2016 results present a positive message about staff experience in the NHS. It's in a sharp contrast to the cacophony of critical comment that has dominated the headlines in the last few months.

Improvements in key areas

It demonstrates that despite the undoubted pressures on the service organisations have been able to improve people management, staff experience and staff confidence in patient care. These results are a tribute to the sustained hard work by HR professionals across the NHS and the service deserves to be congratulated on them.

The results highlight 26 of the 32 key findings have improved. The improvements include progress on measures of key staff experiences such as staff engagement, health and wellbeing and raising concerns. In addition, indicators of good people management such as the quality of appraisal and support from managers has improved. The overall willingness of staff to recommend the NHS as a place to work or be cared for has increased.

There are many issues still to address

Although falling slightly the levels of stress, violence, bullying and harassment remain unacceptably high and staff confidence in equal opportunities has slipped. The range of scores remain very wide with the gap between the highest and lowest scoring organisations even increasing on some indicators.

There is scope for improvement even within areas that are good overall such as staff engagement measure, where for example the involvement scores are much better at team level than more widely.

Local action has helped results

The results support the view that local action can make a difference to survey scores. Organisations which have implemented new approaches to staff engagement, health and wellbeing interventions and enhanced their support for staff to raise concerns have seen an impact on measures.

Other scores such as, staff motivation, stress and feelings on pay vary less at local level, and may be more influenced by wider national factors. Most scores take time to shift and don't show dramatic movement in any one year but almost all have been improved over time.

The overall indicators for the staff engagement score and the key finding on staff confidence in employer action on health and wellbeing provide a way to compare employers. Although comparison should take into account year on year improvement as well as relative position.

Analysing and understanding your data

It is important to analyse this data alongside information from other sources such as local surveys of staff opinion and the Staff Friends and Family test. It should also be considered alongside data on patient opinions and organisational performance data. It enables organisations to assess the impact of initiatives and policies as well as overall barometer of staff opinion on many key areas.

In this year’s survey there are many inspiring examples of organisations making substantial progress and we will be sharing more information about these in upcoming case studies. NHS Employers is also developing a resource to help organisations understand their staff survey data better.

Importantly it should be demonstrated to staff how the data is used and linked to action planning by managers within organisations.

But before moving on to responding to the survey local HR leaders should take a (brief) pause and take some satisfaction from the 2016 staff survey scores.

Don’t miss our 2016 NHS Staff Survey event in Leeds on 14 March – find out more and book your place.

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