The difference between life and death

Written by: Rob Rave
Published on: 16 May 2014

Employee engagement is the key to meeting the challenges faced by the NHS, according to a major new report, with the latest CIPD employee outlook survey placed engagement in the sector 5 per cent lower than the rest of the employment market. According to Nita Clarke of IPA (Involvement and Participation Association) which commissioned the report, it should become a “blueprint” for driving up engagement in the NHS.

The report, commissioned by the Healthcare People Management Association and NHS Employers unites case studies of the UK’s eight best-performing NHS Trusts in terms of employee engagement and clinical outcomes. On the flip side, the report findings come in the wake of news of ‘special measures’ being put in place at Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals Foundation Trust which faces following an 18-strong ‘areas from improvement’ report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), including inadequate patient care quality. Other areas identified by the CQC included higher employee engagement amongst clinicians and managers for a trust that is “not well-led”, greater staff recruitment and retention and a significantly improved culture and open and honest working environment in which staff should feel able to raise concerns without fear of recrimination.

Amongst the high-performing trusts is Kingston Hospital which according to Chief Executive Kate Grimes, has endeavoured to “connect the board to the ward” through such endeavours as walk-around sessions by senior leaders, regular appraisal meetings and even ‘dining companions’ for the hospital’s dementia patients.

At Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust the first priority was to “make our employees feel proud and give them a sense of achievement from day one,” commented Chief Executive Steve Trenchard who also said that their employees “needed a serious case of empowerment to improve engagement levels”.

With five of these trusts also recording an average of 8.10 in a survey of in-patients and higher CQC ratings in both quality of services and financial performance, which demonstrates that employee engagement and staffing really does have a direct impact on patient care and satisfaction and ultimately the success of a trust.

Nita Clarke, both director of the IPA and Co-Chair of Engage for Success alongside David McLeod spoke at the report launch about best practice sharing within the NHS necessitating improvement because of clear evidence of positive, successful examples of employee engagement happening across the country. The success of high-performing Frimley Park NHS Foundation Trust, which neighbours Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals Foundation Trust has been attributed to strong employee voice, visible senior leaders and employee-led organisational values, in other words strong ownership and engagement amongst staff. Plans are now afoot to partner Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals Foundation Trust with Frimley Park NHS Foundation Trust which, according to Mark Turner, Regional Director at sector regulator Monitor would ensure the restoration and maintenance of good quality care. Mark commented that “key to achieving long-lasting improvement will be developing a culture in the trust in which all staff pull in the same direction, so patients and staff see a real difference”.

With the report also concluding that patient mortality rates would decrease by 2.4 per cent lower for every ‘ordinary’ (one standard deviation) increase in engagement signalling that more engaged employees in the NHS could quite literally mean the difference between life and death for some patients.

Rob Rave is a former professional tennis coach turned executive-certified coach working with corporate and private clients. He also runs a tailored, 100% confidential four-session solution-focused program based in the City designed to make significant progress on anxiety, stress, depression and other negative/toxic issues that busy city professionals face in their careers and roles. Rob is able to tailor the programme and dedicate time to each client as he only works with a few individuals each month. Visit or for further information.