Nursing and social care staff are being urged to post “ideas, questions and challenges” on a new digital platform that is being launched as part of a major new national engagement exercise.
Staff will be asked about issues including ways to improve shift patterns, speed up the use of technology, increase access to training and development, and reduce bullying and harassment.
“It’s time we hear from health and care staff about what they really have to say about the jobs”
The Department of Health and Social Care touted the engagement exercise as the “biggest health and social care conversation in British history”, involving millions of health and social care staff.
Details of the move will be set out later today in a speech by health and social care secretary Matt Hancock, when he visits Southmead Hospital in Bristol.
He will set out plans to give all 3.1 million health and care staff in England a “voice in the day to day creation of policy”, said the department in a statement trailing the speech.
It said he was launching a new digital platform called TalkHealthandCare, which staff can use “quickly and easily” to post ideas, questions and challenges for the government.
“We welcome the launch of this online tool as an opportunity to help the NHS listen to and support its staff”
It will be available on phones and tablets, and will also be supported by a range of other events, forums, and webinars for staff across the country.
The department said TalkHealthandCare had been launched in recognition of previous feedback from staff, via surveys and other routes, that far too often staff were not feeling valued at work.
It said TalkHealthandCare was centred around five key challenges that health and care employers encounter (see box below).
For example, among some of the “known issues” that the government will be seeking views on include improving shift patterns and juggling home and work lives.
Source: Department of Health and Social Care
It also highlighted speeding up the use of helpful technologies, which cut out paperwork and give staff time back, and training and development, as areas it wanted to hear about.
In particular, the government said Mr Hancock was concerned about the high number of reports of bullying and harassment. TalkHealthandCare would seek views on what needs to be done to make staff feel safe and secure at work, it said.
The most recent NHS staff survey found over 15% of staff experienced physical violence from patients, relatives or the public, and 28% experienced harassment, bullying or abuse.
In addition, 24% of staff experienced harassment, bullying or abuse from their own colleagues and 12% reported feeling discriminated against – rising to 24% for black and minority ethic staff.
The department noted a new “workforce panel” made up of a range of staff was also being set up, which Mr Hancock would meet with as a “personal sounding board” on health and care isses.
TalkHealthandCare is centred around five key challenges:
- Challenge 1: Staff are equipped to do their job: getting the basics right
- Challenge 2: Staff feel safe and secure: working without fear of bullying, discrimination or violence
- Challenge 3: Staff feel included and valued: belonging to an organisation that respects and values everyone’s contribution
- Challenge 4: Staff are developed: having access to the training, development and support staff need
- Challenge 5: Staff feel empowered: achieving their full potential
Mr Hancock said: “Millions of hard working health and care staff turn up to work every day to meet any challenges tirelessly, with unending compassion.
“It’s only right that they are valued, supported and developed,” he said. “But too often health and care employers, despite the NHS being the world’s fifth largest employer, don’t get this right.
“It’s time we hear from health and care staff about what they really have to say about the jobs that are at the heart of this country,” he said in the speech titled An NHS we love to work for.
“TalkHealthandCare has the potential to amplify the voices of millions of frontline staff”
He added: “My message is clear: we are listening to you, we want your views, and we will use them to ensure the long-term plan for the NHS helps you.”
Dr Ruth May, executive director of Nursing at NHS Improvement, said: “We welcome the launch of this online tool as an opportunity to help the NHS listen to and support its staff, so that they feel happy, healthy, safe and valued.
“This complements our own work with trusts on ways they can provide their staff with a positive and supportive working environment as we continue to develop a long-term plan for the NHS,” she said.
She highlighted existing work with NHS England and the Social Partnership Forum to support trusts in addressing bullying, harassment and incidents of violence against staff.
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Dr May noted that it was “important for the NHS to listen to staff views about their working lives”.
“Doing this will ensure the NHS develops a holistic package of support that acknowledges and meets the needs of its people, so that they can provide high-quality care for patients at all times,” she said.
Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: “Employers recognise that our talented and committed people really are what makes the health and social care sector in this country so highly regarded.
“As employers we know the importance of engaging with our people, and this could be an important new tool for that purpose, supporting the vital work that trade unions do to represent the concerns and aspirations of their members locally, regionally and nationally,” he said.
He added that TalkHealthandCare had the “potential to amplify the voices” of frontline staff, and help leaders to “gain better access to the insight and expertise” of those working in health and social care.
“We welcome any initiative to get the views of midwives and NHS staff”
Sean O’Sullivan, head of health and social policy at the Royal College of Midwives, said: “We welcome any initiative to get the views of midwives and NHS staff.
“They will often have solutions to problems they face and ideas for delivering safer and better care,” he said. “What is important is that this is a real exercise in engaging with staff and that the government act on what staff tell them.”
“There is a real need to give NHS staff the right tools, right staffing levels and the working conditions they need so that they can do their jobs to the best of their ability,” he added.
Unison head of health Sara Gorton said: “Having the health secretary taking action and opening a direct line of communication with employees and unions is a good sign.
“But after eight years of being ignored and sidelined, he needs to convince staff that he is able to change their day to day lives for the better. A good first step would be to make sure this initiative on violence makes our hospitals, clinics and health centres safer places to work,” she said.
Glen Garrod, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, said: “We welcome this consultation exercise to give social care staff a say on shaping future government policy.
“Social care staff deserve recognition and reward for the vital work they do helping to meet people’s needs and enhance their quality of life,” he said. “We encourage as many people as possible to engage in this consultation to help provide better care for everyone who needs it.”
Ian Hudspeth, chair of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said: “Social care staff, as well as NHS staff, go above and beyond in their roles day after day and it is vital that we support them in their demanding work to provide high quality care.
“The social care workforce often feels undervalued,” he said. “This engagement exercise follows the public debate we are leading on how to provide a long-term solution to funding adult social care to rescue a system at breaking point due to years of underfunding, rising demand and costs for care and support.”
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “We welcome this engagement exercise. Our workforce report last year highlighted the importance of making the NHS a great place to work, to secure recruitment and retention and to ensure a supply of new staff.
“It is vital that trusts have the resources to do this, for example through funding for professional development,” he said. “We also welcome the creation of the workforce panel as a means of helping to ensure staff concerns are heard at the highest level.”
Mr Hancock has chosen to visit the Bristol hospital to launch the initiative after his sister, Emily Gilruth, spent a week in a coma at Southmead’s intensive care unit in 2017 following a horse riding accident.
During his visit to North Bristol NHS Trust today, he will meet and thank clinicians from “the bottom of his heart” for treating and saving the life of his sister, and highlight that, as a result, the NHS is “deeply, deeply personal” for him.