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Staff engagement linked to agency spending savings, report finds

Staff motivation and involvement are not only good for employee’s health, but saves trusts’ millions of pounds in agency fees, a new report has found.

Staff motivation and involvement are not only good for employee’s health, but saves trusts’ millions of pounds in agency fees, a new report has found.


Simon Stevens. Picture: Neil O’Connor

The King’s Fund report, Employee engagement, sickness absence and agency spend in NHS trusts, found a link between high staff engagement and potential agency spend savings of between £600,000 and £2.7 million by reducing staff sickness.

Addressing the Chief Nursing Officer Summit in Liverpool on 7 March, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens, who commissioned the report, said: ‘You would imagine where you have higher staff engagement, you have lower sickness and absence, and as a result you have lower agency costs. You would imagine that was true, but I wanted to know factually.

Correlation patterns

‘The report confirms, using the 2016/17 NHS Staff Survey, NHS Improvement staffing data and NHS Digital sickness data, there is indeed that correlation.'

Staff engagement was measured by three standards – motivation, involvement and advocacy – each recorded during the annual NHS Staff Survey.

Motivation is defined as employees having a positive and fulfilling work-related state of mind, involvement is the ability to participate in decision-making and be proactive in making changes, while advocacy is focused on whether an employee is likely to recommend their place of work for treatment or to potential colleagues.

The report found even a minor increase in staff engagement in an average-sized trust could save approximately 2,000 sick days per year.

Race and discrimination discussion

Mr Stevens also used his keynote speech in Liverpool to discuss race and discrimination issues; saying that when the NHS continues to see a difference in the experiences of black and minority ethnic (BME) and white staff, it is a 'huge problem.'

‘There are some things that will take time to progress, when it is cultural change, but there are some things when given appropriate attention by executive nurses begin to change quickly. And one of them is the opportunity for advancement, so our senior ranks are more properly reflective of not only the nurse workforce as a whole, but the population we serve,' Mr Stevens said.

‘It’s not just about being fair to our staff and tapping into the talent that would otherwise be lost, it is actually about being fair to the people and patients of this country.'

Mr Stevens called for everybody in the NHS to take action to address the 'appalling' inbalance of BME nurses at Band 5 level compared with senior nurse gradings.


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