Headlines: March 4th, 2013

Communications between senior NHS managers and staff are poor and in a move to tackle the issue NHS employers have formed a partnership with HR professional groups.

The latest NHS staff survey findings highlight the failings in communication by senior managers and consultation with NHS employees on important decisions. The Francis report on the failures at the Mid Staffordshire Hospital was also a warning to employers about the importance of employee voice.

The NHS employers in seeking ways to improve communication have joined a partnership with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and the Healthcare People Management Association (HPMA).

Last month Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt asked NHS leaders around the country to hold staff listening events following the publication of Robert Francis’s report on the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust. The listening events will help the NHS discuss and learn from the report. The events will provide insights in helping to achieve a safer, more open and compassionate NHS.

The survey findings highlight that more work needs to be done to ensure that all staff are confident that senior managers will act on concerns highlighted by employees. While 86% of NHS staff felt encouraged by their organisation to report errors and near misses, only 61% thought action was taken to prevent similar errors occurring in the future.

Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD, said: “Considering the huge amount of change and spending restraint in the health service there are some positive findings in the survey, and other organisations could do well to follow the NHS’ example in the level of detail and transparency with which they are addressing issues of staff engagement. However, the findings suggest more needs to be done to improve communication and consultation with staff.

For employee engagement and innovation to thrive, and for whistleblowers to feel protected, it’s important to create an open culture where senior managers consult staff about key decisions and employees trust their managers enough to be able to express their views whether asked for them or not.

If you don’t consult staff as a leader you are effectively saying we don’t think staff have a valid opinion and that senior managers always know best. Consultation also has to be meaningful, allowing enough time for the effective consideration of employee opinions before decisions are taken.”