‘Just and learning’ culture can reduce stress and bullying – new guidance

NHS Resolution says improving staff support will save NHS millions in compensation claims

NHS Resolution says improving staff support will save NHS millions in compensation claims

Picture: Chris Nickerson

Payouts of millions of pounds for compensation claims from NHS staff, relating to stress and bullying, highlight the need for a ‘just and learning’ workplace culture, according to new employer guidance.

The document, Being Fair, has been published by NHS Resolution, which manages claims for compensation against the health service in England.

Being Fair aims to help the NHS to create an environment that will improve support for staff when things go wrong at work, and will encourage learning from incidents.

Substantial payouts

When creating the guidance, NHS Resolution looked at 317 claims made between 2013 and 2018, which totalled almost £27.5 million and related to staff stress and bullying in NHS trusts. Of these claims, 65 were from nurses and midwives.

Types of harm featured in the claims included: work-based stress resulting in suicide; staff feeling obliged to work excessive hours, leading to a stress-related illness; and stress caused by workload and lack of resources.

Taking responsibility

Denise Chaffer.
Picture: John Houlihan

NHS Resolution director of safety and learning Denise Chaffer said: ‘The Being Fair guidance encourages a more consistent and equitable approach for all.  

‘A just and learning culture balances fairness, justice, learning – and taking responsibility for actions.’

Employer charter

The guidance highlights best practice examples of how some NHS organisations are tackling these issues, and includes a ‘Just and Learning Culture Charter’ that can be adapted for use by employers.

NHS Resolution collaborated on the guidance with organisations including NHS Improvement and Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA), the UK charity for patient safety and justice.

Three key challenges highlighted in the Being Fair guidance

  • Fear – substantial fear of being inappropriately blamed following an incident, the effect on the staff member’s future employment, and what peers will think, might all prevent NHS staff from sharing and learning.
  • Equity and fairness – the research reveals: inequity and discrimination at an individual level; disproportionate disciplinary action experienced by black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff; and women making twice as many claims as men.
  • Bullying and harassment – these factors can compound the understandable stress when things go wrong, leading to burnout and a loss of productivity.


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