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Healthcare watchdog encourages NHS staff to participate in world's biggest staff survey

Healthcare Commission : 03 October, 2007  (New Product)
NHS employees have been urged by the Healthcare Commission to provide feedback on their experiences at work by participating in one of the largest surveys of staff in the world.
In the fifth annual survey, more than 250,000 NHS staff will be asked their views. Between 600 and 850 staff at each NHS trust will be chosen randomly and data will be collected between October 2007 and December 2007.

The Healthcare Commission, the Department of Health and NHS Trusts use the information gathered in the survey to inform local and national changes in working conditions, which will lead to improvements in the quality of care for patients.

Dr Jonathan Boyce, head of surveys at the Healthcare Commission, said: “We want to give a voice to NHS staff. We need to know their views on key issues such as safety, violence towards frontline workers and their experience of work-related stress.

“The annual staff survey is a vital tool in our efforts to improve the NHS for both patients and staff. This year we hope to have a record response rate. Staff attitudes, experiences and working environment naturally affect organisational outcomes – and in the NHS this includes the quality of care patients receive.

“Results from the survey are used by trusts to deliver local improvements in working conditions and practices. I hope that NHS staff will seize this opportunity to shape their own future.”

The Commission encourages staff in all sectors and roles in the NHS to take the opportunity to give their views. In 2006, 38,188 nurses, 8,123 doctors, 13,355 allied health professionals (for example clinical psychologists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists), 2,795 managers, 3794 ambulance staff and 5875 ancillary staff took part in the survey.

The 2006 survey results identified improvements on safety and work-related stress, with but also highlighted concerns about levels of violence and abuse experienced by NHS staff. Thirty one per cent of staff said they experienced violence and abuse in the previous year.

Some of the key findings and trends that emerged from the 2006 NHS Staff Survey were:

The number of staff experiencing violence or abuse from patients has remained relatively steady over the four years of the survey(31 percent experienced violence or abuse in 2006, 30 percent in 2005, and 32 percent in 2003 and 2004). In the 2006 survey, 13 percent of staff said they had experienced violence from patients in the previous year, while levels of harassment, bullying and abuse were up by two percentage points.

There was a fall in the percentage of staff saying they witnessed errors, incidents or ‘near misses’ with potential to harm patients, down from 49 percent in 2003 to 38 percent in 2006.

2006 was the second year that staff were asked about the availability of hand-washing materials but figures showed room for improvement. Sixty nine percent of nurses and midwives (61 percent of NHS staff overall) said that hot water, soap, paper towels or alcohol rub was always available to them when needed, slightly up from 68 percent in 2005. In 2006, a further 26 percent of nurses and midwives said these items were available most of the time (the same in 2005).

The percentage of staff saying they suffered work-related stress declined from 39 percent in 2003 to 33 percent in 2006. There was also a considerable decrease in the number of staff suffering injury or illness because of work, down from 22 percent in 2003 to 17 percent in 2006. Staff in ambulance trusts were more likely to report suffering from injury or illness because of work.

The number of staff who say they experience discrimination in the work place has increased slightly in all trust types.

A very high proportion of NHS staff report that they work more than their contracted hours. Ambulance staff were more likely than staff from other trusts to report working overtime, but were also more likely to be paid for the extra hours.

The Healthcare Commission will report on the findings of the 2007 NHS Staff Survey, including national trends early in 2008. The Commission will also use the survey data to assess trusts in the annual health check, which gives ratings to every NHS trust in England.
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