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Chris Ham: Staff engagement and empowerment in the NHS


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Chris Ham presents presents the findings and evidence around the review he chaired into staff engagement and devolved decision-making for the Department of Health. He stresses the need for a culture of high staff engagement and devolved decision-making, due to compelling evidence suggesting this increases quality of care.

Published in: Health & Medicine
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Chris Ham: Staff engagement and empowerment in the NHS

  1. 1. Staff engagement and empowerment in the NHS Professor Chris Ham Review for Government July 2014
  2. 2. We have known about the importance of staff engagement in the NHS for many years … › We have been measuring levels of engagement in the NHS since the first staff survey in 2003. › Evidence from a range of sectors over at least the last two decades has highlighted the impact of staff engagement on performance. › More recently, analysis of the NHS staff survey has shown the importance of engagement for staff wellbeing and quality of care. › Most NHS leaders recognise the importance of engagement and a large proportion of providers treat it as a key priority.
  3. 3. Levels of staff engagement are rising across the NHS after a sharp dip in 2010
  4. 4. But disparities are widening and some providers have had low engagement for a decade … • Although many providers consider it a priority, boards dedicate limited time and attention to engagement and the volume of activity and innovation in this area appears to be relatively low.
  5. 5. The purpose of the review was therefore to consider how to increase levels of engagement across the NHS, including … › presenting the evidence that engaging and empowering NHS staff leads to improvements in services and quality of patient care › assessing the range of options for further empowering staff and strengthening their voice within existing NHS organisations › outlining good practices within the NHS and other sectors and the ingredients within these practices, including the role of leaders › identifying options for increasing staff engagement through innovative provider models, including staff ownership.
  6. 6. Mid Staffs highlighted the impact of working conditions on engagement and quality of care
  7. 7. Many of the most successful trusts have focused on developing a powerful strategic narrative for staff in their organisations › In some cases, there has been a shift away from developing a vision at the top, for diffusion to staff in favour of bottom-up processes which allow staff to identify the organisation’s challenges and devise the right approach for addressing them. › For example, trusts following the Listening into Action programme bring staff and leaders together in a strategic dialogue to identify the trust’s challenges and set direction. › At Hinchingbrooke, Circle brought 1,200 of the trust’s 1,700 staff together for partnership sessions to develop its 14-point plan to become a top-ten district general hospital.
  8. 8. Successful providers are simplifying hierarchies and empowering staff to deliver service change › For example, Salford Royal is organised in four clinical divisions, led by a clinical chair, managing director and nursing director. It does not have an operations director and the executive team act as coaches rather than managers of the clinical teams. › As part of this devolution, successful providers have introduced programmes to support frontline staff in delivering service transformation, rather than imposing change from above. › For example, Salford Royal puts together teams of front-line staff from across division boundaries to lead service improvement. Staff are supported by its Performance Improvement Directorate which provides expertise in how to trial and test improvements.
  9. 9. A recurring message was the need for stability to create a high-engagement culture…
  10. 10. Research from other sectors suggests that ownership and governance influence levels of engagement › Matrix Evidence’s review found that employee commitment tends to be stronger in employee-owned businesses (2010). › The Nuttall review highlighted the evidence that employee ownership leads to enhanced employee well-being, reduced absenteeism and greater innovation (2012). › Most research emphasises the importance of employees playing an active role in governance and the benefits in encouraging ‘high-engagement’ behaviours and working practices in the organisation.
  11. 11. Leaders of new NHS mutuals are accountable primarily to staff and stakeholders › In most cases, staff have a nominal financial stake but a substantial governance role through staff councils and electing board members. Most involve other stakeholders on their boards. › The leaders of new mutuals argued that these arrangements had altered their relationships with staff and stakeholders. The governance system underpinned dialogue with staff on strategic direction and more inclusive ways of working in the organisation. › As co-owners, staff felt a much stronger right to express their views and participate actively. They also reported greater empowerment resolve problems and find innovative solutions.
  12. 12. The tentative evidence is that NHS mutuals appear to be achieving higher staff engagement …
  13. 13. Conclusions › NHS organisations need to renew their efforts to strengthen staff engagement, building on progress in recent years and narrowing the gap between high and low performers. › NHS boards should set aside time to discuss the results of staff surveys and to act on the results. › NHS organisations should devolve more responsibility to staff responsible for delivering services, removing unnecessary layers of management and empowering staff to take decisions. › Staff should be supported to improve care through investment in leadership and training in quality improvement skills. › NHS organisations should have the option of becoming staff- owned and -led – as should emerging integrated care organisations. › There should be much greater devolution within the NHS, based on presumed autonomy and proportionate regulation.