Expert advice

Workforce: putting policymakers in the picture

The annual NHS staff survey is an opportunity to make your feelings known to employers and national policymakers, says James Buchan.

The annual NHS staff survey is an opportunity to make your feelings known to employers and national policymakers, says James Buchan 

Some NHS nurses will soon receive an invitation to participate in this year’s NHS staff survey.

This large scale test of the temperature of the NHS workforce helps give national policymakers a picture of staff motivation, and provides NHS trusts with feedback on how their staff are feeling in comparison to those working for other NHS employers.

More than 741,000 directly employed NHS staff were invited to participate in last year’s survey, with responses gathered from 299,000 staff from 297 NHS organisations in England. This was an overall response rate of 41%, but the rate was as low as 19% in one trust.

The 2015 survey showed that staff ‘engagement’ had increased in recent years. This indicator is based on staff perceptions about their ability to contribute to improvements at work, their willingness to recommend the organisation as a place to work or receive treatment, and the extent to which they feel motivated and engaged at work.

Make your feelings known

More than half of all staff (58%) reported they often or always looked forward to going to work, but not all results of the 2015 survey were so positive. Only 38% of respondents agreed that communication between senior management and staff was effective, with even fewer (32%) feeling senior management try to involve staff in important decisions. Just 30% reported that senior managers acted on feedback from staff.

Key findings of the survey are published annually, but a less reported factor is the more or less continuous drop in the national response rate since the survey began. In 2004 it was 60%, falling to 54% in 2010 and to 42% in 2014. Last year, it was 41%.

So if you are asked to participate, make your feelings known, and help push the participation rate back up again.

About the author

James Buchan

James Buchan is professor in the faculty of health and social sciences at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh

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