Covid-19 Update, February 2021: Picker continues to operate as usual. Learn more


Paul Devoy, CEO of Investors in People

Getting better on purpose

Paul Devoy, CEO of INVESTORS IN PEOPLE, reflects on the NHS Staff Survey 2018

“It’s that time of year when – aside from February temperatures unexpectedly going through the roof (21°C? It doesn’t get this warm in Scotland in the summer) – the NHS release the results of their annual staff survey.

The NHS Staff Survey 2018 shows that, even after another year of political uncertainty, the people that keep the rest of the country healthy are, generally, feeling healthier about their work.

There are a number of dimensions which define ‘good work’: happiness, achievement, sociability and being valued. We’ve all felt the surge of wellbeing promoted by those values. And I’m sure we’ve all felt the sting and disappointment of their absence.

Tucked away in the section on the Quality of Appraisals is the key stat for 2018: 31.3% of staff said that their appraisal has definitely ‘left them feeling that their work is valued by their organisation’. Encouragingly, this is up from 29.2% in 2017. But, worryingly, it still means that nearly 70% of NHS staff don’t feel their work is valued.

What is it that that 70% feel is lacking from their work? Why are 70% of NHS staff going home at night (or morning) feeling that’s just another day done? The NHS really is the backbone of the country. They keep our health and wellbeing in the best possible state so we can live our lives the way we want to, to follow our purpose in life. So, in not valuing the work they do, have they lost their sense of purpose?

I often use the example of the NASA janitor who claimed he put men on the Moon. And he was absolutely right.

He had a sense of being part of a team with a common purpose. He knew that his actions – while they may not have been designing a spacesuit or a propulsion system – ultimately allowed others to solve the bigger problems and allow NASA to take one giant leap across 250,000 miles of dangerous space, allowing Neil Armstrong to take one small step onto the surface of the Moon.

That janitor had purpose. And so does everyone working in the NHS – from the specialists and consultants, all the way up to the cleaners and janitors. NHS staff are caring people and that is what they must not lose sight of in a sea of spreadsheets or in a surge of patients presenting themselves at A&E.

Perhaps this is a disconnect between purpose and engagement. People join the NHS and charity sectors because they’re purpose driven people, because they see the bigger picture in their lives and the work that they want to do. But purpose isn’t equivalent to engagement. Engagement drives the mundane, the day to day, the spreadsheets and writing up patient notes. Engagement is driven by the system and the structures around it.

This idea is supported in these results, 75.9% of NHS staff do feel that patient care is a top priority, not only is this an increase on last year, but evidence that everyone does know they are in fact putting someone on the Moon.

We need to support the NHS in finding a way to utilise rather than rely on that enthusiasm. Private companies and commercial operations have been searching for how to engage with purpose and would envy the same passion in their new starters! With learnings on both sides of the aisle, NHS staff can be supported with appraisals and a renewed focus on engagement to support their purpose.”


Paul Devoy



Tags: National Survey Programme, Staff.

See Also:

“It’s time to respond to the ‘chaos’ at the back door.”

Don Redding, Director of Policy and Partnerships for National Voices, responds to the Adult Inpatient Survey 2017 results, exploring experiences around discharge from hospital. In a room somewhere near the back door of the hospital sits a typical hospital patient: a woman, mid-eighties, with several conditions, loneliness and mild confusion.…

13 June, 2018

Putting the NHS Staff Survey to work as a springboard for change

Michelle Hodgkinson, Deputy Director of Engagement and Education at Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, considers what the real value of the NHS Staff Survey is; gaining insights and then acting upon them.   The NHS Staff Survey is the largest workforce survey in the world and in 2017, the survey was…

20 March, 2018

Leave a comment

Talk to us about

Person centred care

Request a callback