Ensuring staff have a voice

We all need to feel safe and confident when expressing our views. If something concerns us, we should feel able to speak up. If we find a better way of doing something, we should feel free to share it. We must use our voices to shape our roles, workplaces, the NHS, and our communities, to improve the health and care of the nation.

We also need to take the time to really listen, helping one another through challenges and during times of change, and making the most of new opportunities. Many staff have felt unable to speak up, or that they have been ignored. This is another area in which BAME staff have been particularly affected. We need to look beyond the data and listen to the lived experience of our colleagues. When our people speak, we must listen and then take action.

The experience of COVID-19 has thrown into even sharper relief the need to engage with and listen to our people. NHS England and NHS Improvement have recently launched the NHS People Pulse for all NHS and provider organisations, to understand our NHS people’s varied experience through COVID and recovery. To build on this, we will now:

  • adapt the 2020 NHS Staff Survey to reflect the current context
  • explore options to implement this survey in primary care in the autumn
  • launch a new quarterly staff survey to track people’s morale in the first quarter of 2021/22, following the results of the 2020/21 National Staff Survey.

But using surveys is just one important way to hear from our people. Networks and digital spaces are also important ways to convey staff experiences. Making sure staff are empowered to speak up – and that when they do, their concerns will be heard – is essential if we are to create a culture where patients and staff feel safe.  We must all make sure our people feel valued, and confident that their insights are being used to shape learning and improvement.

NHS England and NHS Improvement will work with the National Guardian’s office to support leaders and managers to foster a listening up, speaking up culture. Board members of NHS trusts and foundation trusts already have specific responsibilities under the NHS Improvement board guidance published in July 2019.

We will also promote and encourage employers to complete the free online Just and Learning Culture training and accredited learning packages to help them become fair, open and learning organisations where colleagues feel they can speak up.

As employers, NHS England and NHS Improvement and HEE will also take demonstrable action to model these leadership behaviours.