Evidence shows that there is a clear relationship between staff experience in the NHS and the quality of care that patients experience. For the highest quality health and social care for all to be delivered, the service first needs to ensure that its staff are well looked after. The NHS Staff Survey 2014 collected responses from over 250,000 NHS employees, making the results the most comprehensive source of staff experience evidence available. These results revealed clear issues around service standards and staff perceptions of them, such as the fact that only two in five people (41%) felt that their organisation valued their work, or that just 56% of staff would recommend their organisation as a place of work, shows that we are a long way from this.
This briefing, entitled; “Understanding the impact of staff wellbeing on patient experience and healthcare quality,” sets out to understand the pressures currently affecting the NHS workforce and the impact that they in turn may have on the wellbeing both of individual staff and the health service as a whole. These include implications for patient care and experience and some consideration of the implications for improvement.
As the NHS workforce has grown substantially over recent years, so too has staff sickness. NHS Employers estimate that 30% of NHS sick leave is caused by stress, costing up to £400 million a year in lost productivity. Additionally “presenteeism” – described as the act of attending work while sick –doubles the costs of absenteeism. Related to this are the hidden costs of mental illness in staff. The total cost to the NHS of mental health related staff illness stands at £1.3bn (£1,000 per employee).
The fact that the total increases in NHS staff numbers have not fully reflected changing patterns of demand (as acknowledged in the NHS Five Year Forward View published earlier in October 2014), and the growing pressures on staff – as indicated by the rise of sickness absence rates – further confirm the value of understanding wellbeing and supporting initiatives to improve it.
Wellbeing is a pivotal piece of the healthcare experience landscape. Left ignored, it could have significant and lasting consequences for the quality of patient care. Healthcare is essentially a human business, where the staff are core to productivity. When you consider this, and the fact that the current percentage of sickness related absences in the NHS can stand at 5-6%, the value of wellbeing and stress management becomes clear. Prioritising staff wellbeing could not only go a long way towards cutting the organisational sick rate, but increasing productivity and delivering better care for patients.
To pursue improvements in staff health and wellbeing, support through training and development will be required. Monitoring of staff experience and sickness remains a top priority in the NHS policy agenda.