Sorry, it had to be said. Every year for as long as I can remember I get told that morale and motivation in the NHS has never been so low. This is often repeated as though it's scientific fact. This sentiment is most evident when we discuss the annual pay award or proposed changes to terms and conditions of employment.
But when we have robust evidence of what staff think, through the publication each year of the world's largest staff survey - the NHS Staff Survey, no-one ever reports on the positive results that come through.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not being complacent; I know there are areas where we need to do more, much more. Staff report experience of absolutely unnecessary levels of violence and abuse. There are concerns about bullying and work related stress and I don't know anyone that suggests this is acceptable. I want every single one of our 1.3million staff to feel valued. The vast majority will never be an acceptable statistic. The press often cover these aspects as an indication of culture or poor management or lack of resources. But it seems leadership and management areas are not responsible for any positive results. This seems to be presented as happenchance...
Look at the year the NHS has just had.
Strikes, pay freezes, pension contribution increases, redundancy, massive reorganisation, industrial action, reconfiguration and more. A tough year in anyone's book but the survey shows us that the majority of indicators were stable or improved:
• Job satisfaction 78% up from 74% last year
• 74% felt able to make improvement suggestions, up from 68% last year and 65% five years ago
• 83% have appraisals, up from 77% last year and 65% five years ago
• Nine out of 10 would know how to raise concerns and the vast majority of them feel confident to do so, but we want every single member of staff to be confident
• Percentage happy with the responsibility they are given - up
• Feeling supported by line managers - up
• Overall levels of staff engagement (a key indicator in respect of patient care) - up
• Percentage believing their work improves patient care - up
• Percentage that would recommend their organisation as a place to work - yup, you've guessed it - up...
The NHS is a tough place to work. It's demanding, it can be stressful, it involves shift work and unsocial hours working. It involves caring for people in very distressing situations, it works at the limits of science. The NHS is an enormous system - one of the world's largest and change can take time but there are many positive trends. As employers and leaders, we owe it to our staff to relentlessly improve so they do remain committed and dedicated, working as they do when care and compassion are what matters most. The survey results should give some satisfaction and I know many employers will be using the survey results to work on driving further improvements.