Learning from the past year will lead to lasting change

The way the NHS has responded to the pandemic has been extraordinary, and a big part of that has been the way we have supported and looked after each other. Despite the reality that the NHS is made up of many different organisations, this year there has been more sense than ever of one NHS, with people redeployed across services and in new teams in the spirit of a shared endeavour.

It’s particularly heartening that more than half a million of our people have taken the time to share their responses to the Staff Survey 2020, helping us see what change is needed in the NHS and how we can work together to drive this.

Change can be uncomfortable and take time but, in this extraordinary year, the results show that in most areas we have sustained improvements or moved forwards. I was particularly pleased to see that the scores for both the health and wellbeing and safety culture themes are the highest for five years, while the morale score is the highest since the theme was introduced three years ago.

Unsurprisingly, the impact of Covid means that work-related stress has increased among staff. We now need to make our national and local efforts on health and wellbeing even stronger and provide all the support that is needed for recovery.

As Chief People Officer for the NHS, I’ve really appreciated how different individuals and groups have been willing to share their experiences with me so I could fully understand what ‘going to work’ meant for each of our NHS people, whatever their role.

My most important role in all this is to listen and advocate for all: to make space for people to share their voices, hear what they say and respond to the points they raise. The Staff Survey helps to build a picture of what has been happening across the entire NHS. But we know that in reality the picture varies greatly across our organisations, locations, and even between individual teams.

We know that recovery will mean something different for each and every one of our people. The pandemic will not be forgotten. But neither will the outpouring of warmth and support we showed one another. The survey tells us that over two-thirds of staff would recommend their organisation as a place to work, with more staff thinking of staying on in their organisation. As the cases start to ease, there is a strong sense of optimism, along with determination that the learning of the past year will lead to the lasting change set out in the People Plan and the compassionate, inclusive culture we all want to see in the NHS.

Prerana Issar

Prerana Issar is the first NHS Chief People Officer. In joining the NHS, Prerana brings a wealth of expertise in leadership development and strategic talent management, as well as diversity and inclusion.

Prior to joining the NHS Prerana was Director for Public-Private Partnerships at the United Nations and prior to that she was the Chief Human Resources Officer for the World Food Programme. During this time leading the development of the United Nation’s first strategic human capital approach, as well as the reform of many key policies. Before the United Nations, Prerana worked for over 15 years at Unilever Plc, starting with them in India and then for several years was in global roles at Unilever’s headquarters in London. Her last role in Unilever was Vice-President HR for the Global Foods business.

Prerana gets her strong service ethos from her parents who were both in public service in the Government of India for close to 40 years. A proud mother to a teenage son and a younger daughter she says they keep her grounded with timely performance feedback on a variety of topics. One of the happiest days of her life was when her daughter was born at the Royal Free hospital in London, giving her first-hand experience of the NHS staff who every day deliver outstanding care to patients.