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We want to create a positive, inclusive culture in the NHS that backs its staff

Posted by Stephen Hammond 3 months ago

Staff are the heart of the NHS and we recognise how hard they work in frequently challenging circumstances, delivering excellent care despite rising demand.

That’s why we want to improve the culture throughout the NHS to make it a fantastic place to work at all levels, across every area of the country.

However, I’m sure many of you are aware of instances when this hasn’t been the case.

Last month I visited Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, who in 2018 took over the services once provided by Liverpool Community Health NHS Trust. For a long time, Liverpool Community experienced serious problems under a leadership team who allowed a culture of bullying and harassment to spread across the organisation. Not only did this mean a poor working environment for staff, but also led to declining performance and patient care.

I was moved to meet two members of staff who acted as whistle-blowers, calling out instances of bad practice and bullying, kick-starting the road to improvement.

A report by Bill Kirkup into the failures at Liverpool recommended a review of the Fit and Proper Persons Test, which requires all NHS trusts to ensure executive level managers are fit to carry out their roles to the highest standard. We commissioned Tom Kark QC to carry out this review, which was published earlier this week.

We have listened closely to what the Kark Review had to say and are determined to act to create a positive, inclusive culture within the NHS that backs our fantastic employees to provide the best possible care for their patients.

In response to the recommendations made by Kark, we will introduce new national competency standards for NHS leaders, to establish clearer professional benchmarks and help the public and the profession know what to expect of them.

We will also create a central directors’ database where information about qualifications and employment history can be easily accessed – providing a track record of performance for directors.

Chair of NHS Improvement Dido Harding will consider all the recommendations as part of her Workforce Implementation Plan – a key strand of our Long Term Plan for the NHS, demonstrating how integral good leadership is to wider issues affecting the workforce.

However, work is already well-underway to create a positive, open culture from the frontline to the board room. Every trust now has a Freedom To Speak Up Guardian – an incredibly important step for safe spaces for staff to give views, without fear of reprisal.

We will continue to encourage speaking up and embrace those who are brave enough to speak up when they have concerns. Last year we changed the law to protect them, by making it illegal for NHS employers to discriminate against applicants who have blown the whistle in the past.

And the Long Term Plan set out a commitment to creating an inclusive and supportive employment culture for the NHS – promoting flexibility, wellbeing and career development, while redoubling our efforts to address discrimination, violence, bullying and harassment.

It’s crucial that a real change in culture in the NHS starts at leadership level.

I’m a firm believer that leaders create the culture of any organisation and as a government we are committed to creating the right culture to support leaders. Outstanding NHS trusts are driven by the excellent leaders at their core - who inspire the workforce around them and shape the environment in which real success can be achieved. If we’re to create a more just, open and trustworthy NHS we must make sure we give leaders the right training and support to embody and promote this culture.

Visiting Mersey Care ahead of the launch of the Kark review, I saw first-hand how an emphasis on safety and openness within the leadership is already helping staff, leaders and, ultimately, patients.

The Trust told me that more staff feel connected to their managers, being able to report directly to them while being supported in regular team learning sessions.

If we get things right at the top, and support those staff members who have experienced bullying, we can root out this problem, improve patient care and make the NHS the best place to work it can possibly be.

This post was edited on Feb 13, 2019 by Stephen Hammond

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Comments (1)

Theo Kayode-osiyemi says... 2 months ago

Belief in Human Potential for creativity and innovation.

Openness and sharing of knowledge,and learning across teams and trusting staff to work towards corporate goals ,without close monitoring ensure staff outcomes are achievable.

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