2021 NHS Staff Survey: making each voice count

Some 648,594 of our NHS people from 217 trusts and 63 additional organisations in England, the highest number ever recorded, took part in the 2021 Staff Survey. I am very grateful to all of my colleagues who took the time to share how they feel about working in the NHS, especially given the continued pressures.

The results published today give a snapshot of how our NHS people were feeling in the autumn – 18 months into the pandemic, in the middle of painstaking recovery work and high demand for non-COVID care, and as the Omicron variant was starting to emerge.

None of us are machines, and the last two years have had a knock-on effect which is clearly reflected in the Survey findings. However, as the results show, colleagues continue to step up and look after one another in the face of the pressure, with more people benefiting from extra support from their trust and line manager than in previous years.

We know that organisations across the NHS have been working hard to transform their workplace culture and further improve employee experience, but such change takes time, particularly in the current context.

The People Promise, developed through extensive engagement across the country, describes in the words of our NHS people what they want to be true about working for the NHS. By aligning the 2021 Staff Survey with the seven elements of the People Promise, this year’s results provide a consistent, robust way of measuring employee experience across the NHS in England and identifying the improvements needed.

It’s important that we do not just focus on the headline figures today but take the time to explore the richness and wealth of data the coming weeks and months. With the annual NHS Staff Survey, the National Quarterly Pulse Survey.  and the monthly People Pulse, we now have in place a range of robust tools to actively seek and listen to the views of our NHS people.

We must use this extensive range of new insights into the experiences of our NHS people to strengthen all our efforts locally, regionally and nationally to support recovery, and to retain and grow our workforce, to meet the 2022/23 planning guidance and the elective recovery plan.

As we move forward towards achieving the People Promise for all of our staff, we will maintain our focus on health and wellbeing, including supporting and training line managers to have effective health and wellbeing conversations, greater options of flexible working and rapid access to mental health and occupational health services.

And we will continue to recruit and grow the workforce, as well as building on the innovation and teamworking we have seen during the pandemic to make the best possible use of the skills and experience of all of our staff, to make sure that the workload is sustainable and that the work itself is meaningful and rewarding.

I would like to say a big and very sincere thank you to every member of our NHS family for the way you each continue to respond with compassion, skill and professionalism, and look forward to working with you all in the coming months


Photograph of Professor Em Wilkinson-Brice

Em Wilkinson-Brice is the Director of Staff Experience and Leadership Development at NHS England. Em qualified as a nurse in 1992 in Exeter. She was appointed to NHS England in September 2019 following roles spanning over 30 years in the NHS bringing clinical operational experience, working at executive level as Director of Nursing and Facilities at Derby Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Em returned to Exeter in July 2010 where she undertook various executive roles alongside the Chief Nurse role, including Chief Operating Officer, Deputy Chief Executive and lead for integration across Devon. In recognition of the close working partnership between the Trust and two local universities, Em was awarded Associate Professor Faculty of Health and Human Sciences at both Exeter and Plymouth Universities.

Em has a keen interest in people and workforce, health and wellbeing, staff experience and organisational culture. She led on responding to the national workforce challenges of Covid-19. Em remains a practicing nurse and has a Master’s Degree in healthcare management and became a Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) in 2022.