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The NHS should care … for it's staff

Written by jacob matthews · Sunday 10th August 2014

The NHS is one of the largest employers in the world. It is one of the largest healthcare providers in the world and it is one of the most loved and needed institutions in this country.

The downsides to the NHS is that it is constantly ‘in crisis’ and it is expected to provide better care and newer treatments with less money and not enough staff. Recently, this has caused a significant drop in staff morale and the beginnings of an exodus of trained staff out of the NHS. This needs to be addressed.

If you read almost any management textbook, journal article or magazine, they will tell you that happy staff perform better. This ethos is easy to theorise but less easy to practice. Companies like Google and Apple have taken this to heart but so did some of the old Victorian companies like Cadbury’s and Roundtree. These companies aimed to make a profit but also to invest and look after their staff because of moral and economic principles… and it worked.

I believe the NHS needs to embrace this old fashioned paternalistic concept, if it wishes to continue to be a world leader in excellent, affordable healthcare and professional training. If the NHS invests in its staff now, it will increase staff morale, encourage people to stay working in the NHS and ensure top quality patient care.

The reforms

Staff canteens open 24/7 (or near enough), that serve good quality, healthy and affordable food. If staff have to work unsociable shifts, it seems unfair not to provide them with the chance to eat a healthy meal at 2am rather than a Domino's. Staff canteens also allow the staff to unwind and socialise away from the wards and the public, they can be unofficial hubs of productivity where the 'real business' takes place away from the meetings.

Staff rooms with free tea and coffee - it doesn't cost much and every appreciates a 'cuppa'.

A** crèche** for the children of staff, on site or nearby. Reduces the stress of having to take children to carers and pick them up, allows greater flexibility for the staff.

Free staff car parking (if they car share). Staff have to get to work and cars are the most practical way for most people, so why punish them by charging car parking?

An onsite gym that is free/reduced price for staff and open 24/7 so that staff can pop in around their various shifts. The physio gym could just be expanded so patients and staff use the same facilities. Providing healthcare is stressful, takes long hours and is antisocial. All these factors make it easy to put on weight, especially with most hospitals only providing unhealthy meals, Costa and Gregs. So, an onsite gym would make it a lot more convenient for the staff to get the exercise they need to burn off all that stress and calories. Healthier, happier staff!

A hospital/ centre social society like a student ‘MedSoc’ to organise staff socials and sports teams etc. This organisation could even organise special events for the staff like a summer ball or sports day. Anything fun that would bring the staff together and let them blow off steam. It could easily incorporate, elected officials from the professional bodies and elected representatives of the different employees and act as an unofficial staff voice.

Regular staff forums that allow each group of employees to raise concerns or solutions to problems with the organisations management and senior staff.

Staff rota’s should not just be imposed by management but should be organised in a flexible manner that allows staff input.

The NHS management should encourage and provide extra learning opportunities for the staff. By investing in staff education they provide people with opportunities to develop them selves which will benefit the organisation and increase their sense of satisfaction with what they are doing.

Team based points systems for good performance and regular rewards for excellent care. These points systems can then be used to promote competition between teams which should raise the level of care. Have a monthly leader board and reward the best team with a day at a spa or something.

These changes may hark back to ideas that are out of favour now with the increased desires for measured ‘efficiency’, but I believe that these suggestions would hugely increase staff well being, which would hopefully improve their attitudes towards the organisation they work for and would hence make them happier and less stressed when they are caring for patients.

If you have any other suggestions for improving staff wellbeing please do leave comments.

The NHS is enormous and has a huge variety. It would be fascinating to survey as many parts of it as possible and see how many places have these services available for the staff already. Please feel free to contact me if you know of any study like this or if you are keen of setting up a study like this with me.