Promoting partnership working in the NHS

NHS Staff Survey 2014

The SPF is aware of the excellent partnership working between management and trade unions in the NHS to create environments where staff can deliver high quality patient care. The 2014 NHS Staff Survey results, published 24 February 2015, show the good work going on in individual organisations and some positive national results, they do though reflect the increased pressure across the NHS and wider public sector, and staff completing the survey report some impact on their experience at work.

There is a positive increase in staff responding that the care of patients is their organisation’s top priority and a small increase in the number of staff having a well-structured appraisal and being supported by their immediate manager. Particular areas of concern for the SPF are that only 56 per cent of staff would recommend their organisation as a place to work and only 64 per cent said that if a friend or relative needed treatment, they would be happy with the standard of care in their organisation. Other worrying results relate to the percentage of staff that experience physical violence from patients, their relatives or other members of staff. This is higher for staff working in ambulance and mental health trusts. There is also a reduction in the percentage of staff who feel their organisation takes positive action on their health and wellbeing.

The recently published report from Sir Robert Francis QC, Freedom to Speak Up, highlighted good and poor practice taking place in the NHS in how staff are treated when they raise concerns or whistleblow. This mixed picture is reflected in the 2014 NHS Staff Survey, with 68 per cent of staff reporting that they would feel secure raising concerns about unsafe clinical practice and 57 per cent reporting that they would feel confident that their organisation would address their concerns.

The SPF knows that at times, where the system fails, staff have had to resort to blowing the whistle. If, however, NHS organisations have robust policies and procedures and most importantly the right culture in place to encourage and support staff to raise concerns in a safe and supportive environment, the situation should not arise where staff need to whistleblow. Evidence shows that where staff are actively engaged by their organisation - this leads to improved patients outcomes. The SPF urge management and trade unions to work together locally to create an environment in every NHS organisation where staff are encouraged to speak up when they see poor care and to have their concerns listened to and, where appropriate, acted on. 

The less positive results in the 2014 NHS Staff Survey are a concern and the SPF would like to see regional SPFs and local partnership forums working constructively to address particular issues, identify solutions and learn from organisations that have successfully adopted this approach. We recognise that this may be difficult in the challenging environment that NHS managers and staff work in and that there may not be easy answers. Despite this, through working together in partnership, employers, trade unions and staff are best placed to tackle the issues identified in the survey.