The 2015 NHS Staff Survey results were released on 23rd February. The survey is the largest of its kind in Europe and surveyed over 741,000 NHS staff with 299,000 responses. It is fully confidential with the surveys undertaken by recognised survey providers working with a survey designed by NHS England, NHS Employers and staff side. Individual organisations get their own aggregate results and analysis of trends to take into account in their employment policy. In this article, Steven Weeks highlights important findings from the recent survey results.

The NHS Staff Survey released on the 23rd February shows progress in improving staff engagement in the NHS. This is despite the intense pressures on the service and widespread negative media coverage. The increase in engagement levels reflects the high levels of commitment of NHS staff and the sustained efforts by many NHS Trusts to improve involvement over the past year. 

The Staff engagement measure used by the NHS is a composite measure made up of indicators of motivation, levels of involvement and willingness to recommend the service. The overall level is measured on five point scale and rose from 3.71 in 2014 to 3.78 in 2015. The level of engagement is now at its highest since first introduced in 2011 when it was 3.61. There was a particular improvement in the motivation score which rose from 3.83 to 3.92 which is also the highest recorded. The overall indicator of involvement also rose from 3.85 in 2014 to 3.89 in 2015 (compared to 3.82 in 2011). 

The improvement in motivation levels is the most surprising given the pressures on the service. The motivation score is derived from questions on how far staff look forward to going to work and their overall work experience. It does reflect the high level of commitment staff have to their work and their identification with the NHS.

The improvements on involvement reflect the work in many Trusts to give staff more opportunities to share ideas and act on staff input. Examples of these approaches can be found on the NHS Employer website. The overall indicator looks at both individual level of responsibility where staff are generally satisfied and organisational involvement where there picture is more mixed. 69.8 per cent of staff feel able to contribute toward improvements at work (up from 68.1 per cent in 2014). Staff feel more able to share ideas with 75 per cent reporting that they are able to make suggestions for improvement. By contrast only 56 per cent feel they are able to make improvements happen. There is clearly though still scope for improvement as only 32 per cent feel senior management involve them in important decisions or act on feedback. 

There has been also been a recovery in the willingness of staff to recommend the NHS as a place to work. This rose to 59 per cent up from 56 per cent in 2014. 

There is a more mixed picture on other aspects of staff experience. Areas that improved included appraisal rates, confidence that the employer will deal with health and well-being issues and confidence to report concerns. By contrast staff felt under pressure, had concerns over staffing levels and experienced a high level of work related injuries. It is also a cause for concern that rates of bullying and harassment rose from 23.5 to 24.8 per cent and levels of reporting fell. NHS Employers will be working through the NHS Social Partnership Forum to tackle the issue of bullying. 

NHS Employers will be strengthening support for employers in improving staff engagement. In particular looking at how to spread best practice from improving organisations to those that face the greatest challenges and how to sustain staff engagement in the context of intensifying pressures on the service. 

Steven Weeks is a Policy Manager at NHS Employers.