Employee Engagement in the NHS

I was interested and pleased to see Rand Europe’s published research analysing data from NHS Healthy Workforce and Britain’s Healthiest Workplace surveys to understand employee engagement in the NHS. Rand is a respected and experienced organisation which has done much work over the years to help support understanding of NHS staff health and was one of the key organisations supporting the independent review I lead in 2009 looking at the impact of NHS staff health on productivity, patient outcomes and Regulatory compliance.

This most recent support uses rich data from these recent large surveys to highlight that health and engagement do matter – higher levels of engagement are associated with less sick absence and less sick presence and this does matter to good patient care.

The NHS is one of the world’s largest employers and its operations have much impact on the wellbeing of its staff and on the millions of people who rely on its services. The work shows that ways of working can make a big difference to levels of engagement – understanding flexible working, managing home-life balance, dealing with the need to work anti-social hours and supporting those with caring responsibilities are all positive steps that support improved health and engagement.

Bullying, exposure to violence or abuse and poor peer support are important causes of lost engagement and whilst all are recognised it has proved challenging to change cultures and to address. The research also provides evidence that positive health interventions do support improved engagement and do deserve leadership attention.

I have continued to work regularly with NHS organisations since the 2009 review and the NHS staff Health and Wellbeing Framework reflects real progress in providing NHS employers with support to address staff well-being. I hope more NHS organisations will learn from the experience of a number of leading NHS trusts that have seen improvements by prioritising staff health needs.

The Rand report contains in its conclusion “Nonetheless, NHS organisations under similar pressures perform quite differently on some of these metrics. This suggests that organisational context and culture play an important role. Here, the Boorman Review (Boorman et al., 2009) would point to the importance of leadership setting the right tone, line managers being trained to support the health and well-being of staff and the organisation reporting internally and externally on human capital. Also, Boorman found that there should be zero tolerance towards bullying and violence in the NHS. Bullying is reported by a significant number of the population.”

I am pleased to be quoted, but as we approach the ten year anniversary of starting that work I hope Rand’s observations will help these issues be taken seriously and the NHS will take opportunity to become an exemplar to others.