The NHS must do more to look after and listen to nurses, according to the authors of a report that highlights the link between happy staff and patient welfare.
While most NHS trusts claim staff engagement is a key priority, actual engagement levels are relatively low, said the report by the Point of Care Foundation. This is particularly so for nurses, it warned, with just 27% feeling actively engaged in their organisations.
Pulling together a range of evidence from research, it stresses the importance of “staff engagement” and the need for nurses and others to feel truly valued.
It flagged up links between staff wellbeing and rates for healthcare associated infections and patient mortality. When it comes to death rates there is a strong correlation with staff satisfaction, “with the strongest correlation among nurses”, it said.
In addition, the report highlighted especially high stress levels among nurses, with 55% saying they had felt unwell due to stress over the past year in a recent survey by the Royal College of Nursing.
Professor Jull Maben
Professor Jill Maben, director of the National Nursing Research Unit at King’s College London and a trustee of the foundation, said staff engagement was all the more important in tough times.
“It is an enormously pressured time and when you’re under pressure there is this temptation to batten down the hatches and not come up for air,” she said.
“But at times like that it’s even more important staff feel valued and listened to, otherwise more people end up burnt out and stressed and then leave, leaving you with unfilled vacancies and making things worse.”
Professor Maben said it was vital nurses had the opportunity to “stop, reflect and feed back on what they are doing”. However, she noted that opportunities had fallen by the wayside in recent years with the advent of 12-hour shifts where nurses rarely left the ward and handovers were brief.
Solutions could include initiatives like Schwarz Rounds, monthly one-hour sessions where groups of nurses and others talk about and reflect upon particular cases, she suggested.
Professor Maben also called for formal supervision currently available to midwives and mental health nurses to be extended to all, and said it was vital managers really listened to staff.
“People often think they are listening but they are not really,” she said. “It’s almost worse to ask people what they think then not do anything, than not asking.”
The report, which features a number of good practice examples, also says frontline staff should be given more responsibility and authority to solve problems affecting patient care.
Its findings were welcomed by the RCN and the NHS Employers organisation.
RCN director of nursing and service delivery Janet Davies said: “Nurses and other frontline health workers understand the issues facing the NHS and can provide the solutions. This is why it is so important that they are listened to and valued.”
Sue Covill, director of employment services at NHS Employers, said the foundation’s report highlighted the “ever-growing importance of the link between staff engagement and patient care”.
She said: “In short, staff who feel valued provide better care and that better care means better patient experience and outcomes.
“We are clearly seeing incremental improvements despite reorganisations, incredibly tight resources and reports highlighting the need for new systems, processes and regulations,” she said. “But we know there is no quick fix.
“This is about culture change and to pretend otherwise will lead to unsustainable solutions,” she added.
The Point of Care Foundation is a charity working to improve patient experience and increase support for staff. It grew out of the Point of Care programme, which was run by the King’s Fund from 2007 until last year.
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