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Staff wellbeing and engagement will make or break NHS England’s Five Year Forward View

Brendan Martin, 20 October 2014

How can the NHS mobilise the knowledge of its staff more effectively? How can staff wellbeing and engagement improve? Our Best Workplace approach can help.

Just when NHS staff have gone on strike for the first time in 30 years because their pay is frozen while their workload intensifies is hardly the ideal moment to suggest they shell out for gym membership and take on more responsibility.

Judging by the tone of the hundreds of comments following yesterday’s Observer piece leaking details of NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens's Five Year Forward View they are in no mood to add either obesity prevention to their duties or gym fees to their ever tighter personal budgets.

But Stevens is surely right about the need for a radical shift to preventative care, and NHS staff know it as well as he does. So winning them over will be easy -- provided he goes about it the right way.

The key is to place staff wellbeing and involvement at the centre not just of an obesity prevention push but of everything the NHS does. The evidence that doing so would benefit patients is very clear, as we have reported time and again.

As NHS Employers itself puts it: “To deliver high quality patient care, the NHS needs staff that are healthy, well and at work. Looking after the health and wellbeing of staff directly contributes to the delivery of quality patient care.”

It adds: “High performing NHS organisations also often tend to have good staff engagement polices.”

It is high time hospitals offered their patients, staff and visitors a more healthy diet, and if Google provides gym facilities to its staff why shouldn’t the NHS? The benefits to patients would more than justify the cost.

But more and more diktats from above is exactly what NHS staff do not need — particularly if they are simultaneously deprived of the time and resources they need to deliver.

So the way in which Stevens goes about achieving his aims will determine whether or not he achieves them.

If he wants NHS staff at the forefront of preventative as well as curative health care the first step must be to do all he can to support their wellbeing and engagement at work.

Yet NHS England’s web page on his Five Year Forward View not only makes no reference to staff engagement in general but gives no sign that Stevens plans to consult them about the review itself.

Quite rightly, the review is involving National Voices and NHS Citizen, and “we will seek active engagement with a wider list of stakeholders upon publication of the report, which we will use as the beginning of a conversation with the wider system,” it says.

That must include a systematic approach to enabling the voices of the staff to be really heard.

Mobilising their knowlede effectively will not only improve the review itself but also contribute powerfully to the NHS culture change without which the review’s aims will not be realised.

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