Director of Human Resources Christine Lloyd-Jennings said: “It may be a cliché, but it is absolutely true that our staff are our most important asset. We are proud of the wonderful staff who work here who provide excellent care to our patients. We know that our patients appreciate the caring attitude and quality of care through patient surveys and the many letters of thanks that we receive. We have a considerable team of highly skilled people at Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust from the doctors, nurses, receptionists and therapists who provide front line care to the many people who work behind the scenes in our laboratories, as medical secretaries and administrators, those servicing the complex array of IT systems, our facilities and estates team to name a few.
“The last year has been a very challenging one for Plymouth Hospitals and we appreciate that our staff have worked under considerable pressure to maintain high standards for patients. We know that staff have been asked to go the extra mile and that this pressure has affected our staff and that, in some areas, morale is low. Our recent staff survey has reflected this and the Trust Board is taking this feedback very seriously indeed.
“Our patient profile has changed significantly. We treat more patients as day cases which means that the patients who do stay overnight or longer need high intensity, specialist care. We understand the pressure that staff feel when they are understaffed and cannot provide the level of personal care to patients that they want to give. This is why we have undertaken a review of our staffing levels and invested more than a million in extra nurses and healthcare assistants.
“The Trust Board is committed to listening to the opinions of staff and working with staff to improve their working lives and valuing our staff is high on the corporate agenda. The survey was conducted in November – many actions have already taken place since to improve the working lives of our staff. We know that we have to consult staff more and to listen to feedback and we know that we have to improve our communication mechanisms across the organisation. The Trust enjoys very positive relationship with its trade union colleagues and staff side representatives and we will work together on further improvement plans.”
842 of the Trust’s 6000 staff were chosen at random and invited to complete the survey, of those 453 (54%) responded. Nurses and clerical & administration staff formed the two largest groups to respond.
1. Work/Life Balance
The results of the 2007 survey represented some minor improvements in areas where previous reports have shown us as a Trust to be doing well. For example, the Trust has been working hard to ensure that Trust staff enjoy a good work/life balance and this is reflected in the survey with at least 66% of the staff who responded saying they had taken advantage of a flexible working option.
2. Team Spirit and Support
There has been a 10% increase (to 71%) since last year in the number of staff who felt their manager was encouraging them to work as a team with staff feeling strongly integrated in a team on many levels. Good team spirit exists within many departments with support of colleagues valued highly – staff felt they had clear feedback, are being asked their opinion before decisions are made, with more than 66% feeling their manager is available to help with a difficult task. The Trust was above average for the support offered to staff from their immediate managers.
The number of appraisals has increased by 6% during the last 12 months which is a testimonial to the Trust’s efforts to reach the target rate of 100% appraisal set for September 2008. We will continue this work to ensure that this target is met. As a Trust we encourage all of our staff to embrace the opportunities available to them to continually develop their career within the Trust and the amount of training opportunities available along with the appraisal system are perfect ways of ensuring the opportunity for personal staff development.
4. Staff Morale
Staff morale and the feeling of value within the Trust are important indicators for the organisation. Here, unfortunately, the Trust does follow the national trend. Dissatisfaction with staffing levels has increased whilst morale has decreased and in turn, some staff feel undervalued – particularly in occupational groups such as nursing. More than half of staff, 54%, were dissatisfied with the extent to which the Trust values their work.
What is the Trust doing about this?
- A comprehensive recruitment campaign following review of staff numbers in many areas is already under way and a programme of focused organisational development work to align and involve staff will hopefully impact on staff helping to make them feel more appreciated and valued within their department. For example, the organisation has reviewed the number of nurses needed in each area with that area’s lead nurse and as a result is investing an extra £1.34million in recruiting more nurses.
- Good leadership and management supports good staff morale as is evidenced in areas where there is effective leadership in the organisation. The Trust will continue to invest in Leadership and Management Development programmes to promote the best practice that exists in some wards and departments right across the organisation.
5. Communications and Involvement
The survey showed that communications and involvement is an area where a divide is perceived between senior management and staff. 63% of those staff that responded felt communication between senior management and staff was not effective, with just 12% thinking that it was effective. Only 17% of staff who responded agreed that senior managers involved them in important decision making.
What is the Trust doing about this?
- Getting out and about: In August 2007 we introduced zoning visits around the hospital. Board members walk round the Trust (at all sites) and talk to staff. They sit in on staff briefings, visit wards and speak to the frontline and back-of-house staff. This is part of an ongoing project to encourage free dialogue between management and staff so that areas become more effective – and it is also a way to endorse that patient care is the Trust’s top priority. Since August 2007, Board members have visited more than 130 wards and departments in the Trust. The zoning visits will continue this year and will remain a regular feature encouraging more interaction between senior management and staff at every level.
- Staff define our vision and values: Nearly 200 staff were asked to help come up with the Trust’s vision and values last year. Staff in 26 different areas have since requested a presentation on these vision and values to try and get more involved.
- Creating a new communications plan: To ensure that the right channels are in place for staff to get good information and feedback where they want or need to.
6. Harassment and Bullying
Harassment and bullying are also areas of concern according to the responses of the staff surveyed. Nearly 40% of staff who had experienced physical violence did not report it. 24% of staff who responded had experienced harassment or bullying from colleagues. The Trust has a zero tolerance policy to any forms of harassment or bullying – whether this be by patients, visitors to the Trust or work colleagues. Bullying, physical violence or and any kind of abuse will not be tolerated and we encourage staff to report it. The report showed that the Trust scored among the highest 20% of acute Trusts in England in taking effective action towards violence and harassment. Staff who experience abuse of any kind need to feel secure in the knowledge that there are disciplinary procedures in place to protect them.
Full details of the Healthcare Commission findings can be found at www.healthcarecommission.org.uk
For further information contact the Press and Communications Office, Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust on 0845 155 8207