By Chris Graham, Chief Executive, Picker Institute Europe

Arguments about the pressures on the NHS at a system level are well rehearsed; rising demand, financial restraint, and challenges around staffing numbers are well reported. But what of the impact of caring on healthcare professionals as people?

The NHS Staff Survey is an annual survey that aims to help providers to understand how it feels to work in the health service. In 2016, it recorded the experiences of more than 423,000 members of NHS staff – and provides fascinating insight into the health and wellbeing of NHS staff.

Some of the findings are troubling. Over the autumn of 2016, 60% of staff came into work despite feeling physically unable to perform their duties. Musculoskeletal (MSK) problems were a particular issue, with one in four (25%) reporting MSK problems resulting from work activities. MSK problems were even more prevalent in ambulance trusts: here, 41% of respondents and three in five (60%) ambulance technicians reported experiencing work-related MSK problems in the last three months.

Encouragingly, the staff survey does provide evidence that organisations can help to reduce MSK problems for staff. Organisations where higher percentages of staff respondents said that their employer “definitely” took positive action on health and wellbeing perhaps unsurprisingly reported lower percentages of staff respondents reporting MSK problems. The strong association between these measures shows the beneficial impact of pro-active approaches to health and wellbeing.

picker logoHealthcare professionals provide an indispensable role, often under difficult circumstances. Their employers rightly have a duty to look after them – and this should include a holistic approach to health that emphasises wellbeing and harm avoidance rather than simply remedial action.

Getting this right is important for staff, but is also vital to reducing pressure on services; organisations that take steps to prevent their staff from becoming patients will prevent sickness absences from stretching their workforce further.

I’d encourage you to take a look at how your organisation faired in the 2016 NHS staff survey – you can see the results here: www.nhsstaffsurveyresults.com. What do you think of them? Soon, the 2017 survey will be circulated and it will be your opportunity to help us all understand what it’s actually like to work in the NHS in 2017; we need your opinions.

See ARMA’s page of resources related to Working with MSK.

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