Ensuring our NHS people have a voice

A key principle of We are the NHS: People Plan 2020/21 – action for us all is to ensure that all of our NHS people feel physically and psychologically safe at work. Having a voice that counts is one of the cornerstones of our NHS People Promise. Each and every one of us should feel empowered to bring our whole self to work, and be confident enough to express our views, knowing that they will be heard.

This has been an unprecedented year for our NHS; our lived experiences of COVID-19 have highlighted more so than ever, the need to listen to each and every one of our 1.3 million strong workforce. To be heard is to be understood; there have been times over my career when I have felt that no one is listening – it is a frustrating and lonely experience. That is why I feel so passionate about our 2020 National NHS Staff Survey – it provides an opportunity to focus on understanding and learning from your experience of working through the pandemic. You have a voice that counts, your story is important, and you will be heard.

In order to accurately measure and understand your lived experience of what it is like to work in the NHS, particularly during this pandemic, we’re asking many of the same questions in the same way as in previous years-this enables us to continue to monitor trends over time. However, this year’s survey includes a couple of changes, to reflect working through COVID-19; you will see that there are a couple of free text questions and additional demographic questions which will allow you to provide further insight into your experiences and help us to learn at both a local and national level.

There are also new questions which will capture your experience of speaking up and feeling safe, as well helping us to better understand parental and caring responsibilities, for those of you who have children or who are carers.

In many ways, COVID-19 has brought out the best in us, but it has also shone a light on the inequalities which still exist and which we know must change. We have an individual responsibility to reflect on our thoughts and behaviours, and a collective responsibility to turn our thoughts and words into meaningful actions to facilitate change for the better.

In terms of feeling safe and confident to express your views, I want to assure you that the Staff Survey is completely confidential. No one from your place of work will be able to see your survey responses or identify your views.

Next year, we’ll be redesigning the staff survey to align with Our People Plan; this will allow us to further ensure that you feel valued, and confident that your insights are being used to shape a more compassionate, inclusive and flexible NHS.

Thank you for everything you have done and are doing during these most challenging times. The 2020 NHS Staff Survey should now be available in your organisation and I encourage you to take part, to make your voice count, and to help us understand what matters to you most.

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.