Caring for people who care really matters

New evidence, published last month, underlines how staff and patient experience is inextricably linked, so this week’s publication of the NHS Staff Survey 2017 is an ideal time to examine the connection between them:

The patient is at the centre of everything we do, and is our ‘raison d’être’, or reason for existing.

Across the NHS we are striving to involve them and their carers more in their treatment and care.  We want to know what matters to them.  On the other side of the coin, we also want to know what matters most to staff.  Commitment 6 of Leading Change, Adding Value encourages us to respond actively to this very question.

The staff experience team is developing a number of frameworks, models and tools to help organisations do just this.  During 2016 and 2017, we worked with Patient Voices to look at the DNA of care.  They developed digital stories that look at the person behind the care, how they felt, and what they experienced.  There are 40 unique and personal stories available as a resource to help organisations appreciate the people behind the uniforms and masks, and what part of themselves they bring to work. The stories can help organisations explore how to improve the experience their employees have at work.

Caring for the people who care really matters.  There is compelling evidence which suggests that improving staff experience has a tremendous impact on patient care and on resources.  A positive staff experience can lead to:

  • A reduced number of medical errors;
  • Reduced sickness absence rates;
  • Reduced mortality rates; and
  • Reduced staff costs.

The direct annual costs of sickness absence in the NHS amounts to £1.7 billion.  Press reports have indicated that there are 100,000 vacancies across the NHS in England as of February 2018.  With each vacancy costing on average £4,500 to fill, we can see the financial benefit of improving the way we looking after the people who care.

On 23 March, the staff experience team launches a framework to support organisations to commission for a positive staff experience, and help them to understand what they can do to show workplace compassion.  This isn’t rocket science, and the benefits are vast.  We have worked with Hope for the Community to ask what staff what workplace compassion means for them, and have had some powerful feedback.

  • Trusting me to do the right thing shows workplace compassion;
  • Supporting staff to speak up shows workplace compassion;
  • Calling us people, not resources shows workplace compassion.

And these are just a few of the simple things organisations can do to support a positive staff experience.

Engaging with and caring for the people who deliver care, and supporting them to bring their whole selves to the work has helped to inform the framework.  They can’t work like automatons and leave their own feelings at the door.  We hope that through this, and other work programmes we are leading on, organisations will understand that staff and patient experience are truly two sides of the same coin.

There will be a spotlight on both during Experience of Care Week – which happens from 23 to 27 April – is jointly coordinated by NHS England and NHS Improvement and offers a great opportunity to share and spread ideas about how people are working to improve experiences of care for and with patients, families, carers and staff, everyday across all our services.  More details can be found in Kath Evans’ recent blog.

If you would like to know more about the Staff Experience Work Programme, or are keen to get involved in our work, please email, or tweet me at @KateNMilton.

Kate Milton

Kate Milton is the Experience of Care Lead for Staff Experience at NHS England.

Kate has over 30 years’ experience in HR, equality and human rights, and staff experience, predominantly in the public sector.

She was appointed to NHS England as part of the equality and health inequalities team in May 2013, moving into her current role as Experience of Care Lead for Staff Experience in May last year. She leads a programme to drive improved outcomes and experiences for patients through improving staff experiences of care.

Outside of work Kate is member of the Local Governing Board at Callington Community College in Cornwall. She has been a governor since October 2012, and was appointed Chair in January 2017

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