Wednesday 14 November 2018
Photo: Stefano Cagnoni
Working in healthcare can be emotionally exhausting, even occasionally traumatic, but many staff don’t get the chance to deal with the emotional burden of their work, Summit delegates attending a Management Life workshop heard.
Kate Milton, who leads work on staff experience for NHS England, said the pace of life in the NHS meant staff often struggled to find time “for a quiet word with their manager, a few minutes to unwind and prepare for the rest of the shift, or a more formal debrief”.
NHS England is working to change that, she said, through a project examining the relationship be-tween the patient and staff experiences of care, which uses “powerful stories” to highlight the emotional impact of caring on staff.
By examining the experiences staff go through when they deliver care, the programme aims to identify ways to improve recruitment and retention, increase efficiency and deliver more innovative approaches to care. A positive staff experience is also linked to fewer medical errors and reduced mortality rates, Milton added.
She warned that failing to address the pressures on staff at work can also hit an organisation’s “bottom line”: around 30% of NHS sick leave is due to workplace stress and recruiting replacements for stressed-out staff who leave costs an average of £4,500 each time.
Milton’s team are looking at a number of initiatives, including adapting commissioning procedures to recognise the need for compassion in the workplace, and a pilot study to examine what matters most to staff. Some of this work involves bringing together staff and patients to discuss their experiences and how they can be improved, Milton said.
The NHS England team are gathering “staff stories” which focus concentrate on the realities of working in the NHS and are designed to provoke discussion on what can be changed. Leaders have a key role in this, Milton explained, because compassionate leadership is important in shaping culture. “Leaders needs to pay attention to staff, to understand their challenges and difficulties, empathise with them and ultimately take thoughtful appropriate action,” she said.
In discussion with delegates, Milton and her colleague Michail Sanidas suggested board meetings in NHS organisations should discuss stories from staff as well as patients, and that the Care Quality Commission should include compassionate leadership as a factor in assessing the standard of leader-ship in NHS organisations.