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The part of my job I have enjoyed the most since becoming Health Minister in November has been visiting different parts of the NHS, and meeting the dedicated staff who care for us.

In Luton & Dunstable I was struck by how managers worked hard to ensure they were approachable, allowing staff to feel comfortable raising any problems or concerns they have.

And at Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust I met two whistleblowers who spoke up against bullying and bad practice.

I have an enormous amount of respect and admiration for each and every person who makes up the NHS, all of whom told me how much they loved their jobs, despite sometimes challenging circumstances.

And I’m also well aware that there’s still a lot more we as government can do to make things easier for you.

Many of you may have seen the results of the NHS Staff Survey that were published on Tuesday, and I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to give your views. Your feedback is essential for us to make the NHS better, not only for patients, but for all staff too.

There’s plenty to be positive about. More of you would recommend your organisation as a place to work and for patients to be treated compared to last year, and more of you feel you are getting the recognition you deserve when you do a good job.

While any act of violence against a member of staff is unacceptable, it is promising to see improvements in this area with this figure at its lowest level for five years. With the Assault on Emergency Workers Bill now in law, I hope this statistic will continue to fall.

However, there are areas which are still a cause for concern and I am determined that we do everything we can to tackle these. More of you have reported experiencing bullying and harassment and feeling unwell as a result of work related stress, and less than a third of you feel that your organisations take positive action to improve your health and wellbeing.

This is unacceptable and I am committed to fixing it.

Our Long Term Plan for the NHS sets out our clear commitment to making the NHS a consistently great place to work. That means promoting flexibility, wellbeing and career development to build a more modern working culture where everyone feels supported and valued. And we are backing up this commitment with clear action.  

Just last week we set out plans to offer NHS staff dedicated mental health support whenever they need it. The proposals – which will be considered as part of the Workforce Implementation Plan – include a 24/7 confidential support service and fast-track mental health referrals if recommended by a GP, to provide day-to-day support with the pressures of a job on the frontline of the NHS and ensure everyone has somewhere to turn in the toughest times.

We will redouble our efforts to address bullying, violence, discrimination and harassment by investing up to £2 million per year in new initiatives to tackle it.

And this Talk Health and Care platform is a direct channel to myself, my Ministerial colleagues and the Health Secretary, where every comment is taken seriously and used to inform national policy making. So if you have an opinion or an idea, we want to hear it.

The NHS is nothing without its wonderful staff and we have a duty to care for you, so you can care for your patients.

I’ve only met a small number of you so far, but I very much look forward to meeting more of you in the coming weeks and months to discuss your experiences – to find out what more we can to do make sure you are supported and valued for the outstanding contribution you make to our health service.

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.

I am Stephen Hammond and I was appointed Minister of State for Health, at the Department of Health and Social Care, last month. As the Minister with responsibility for the NHS workforce, I am pleased to be working with a Secretary of State who has placed such a high priority on supporting the people who work in the health service to provide the best possible care.

My first visits were to St Bartholomew’s Hospital and North Middlesex Hospital. There I heard from staff about the issues they face every day – they echoed much of what you and colleagues from up and down the country have posted to the #TalkHealthandCare platform. That there are issues with the availability of training and development, that there isn’t always enough time to care, that too often people experience bullying at work. None of these things are acceptable.

As the NHS prepares to publish its long term plan, now is an ideal opportunity to describe what will be different for health and care staff working in the NHS in ten years’ time. I am clear that the issues facing staff need to be front and centre in the plan and that the change it will describe must be delivered in partnership – with national organisations working with unions, employers, patients and staff to deliver services that are clinically led, high quality and sustainable.

 

NHS ward

Over the coming weeks you will see me contributing to the discussion here and as I embark on visits to hospitals across the country. I am committed to continuing to listen to your views so I can best understand what support you need. And I am committed to working with you to help solve the issues you face every day.

 

Stephen Hammond

United Kingdom

Joined this community on Dec 17, 2018

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