With ever-higher levels of staff turnover, and chronic problems with vacant positions and recruitment, NHS staff across the country are working in exceptionally difficult times.
While much of these testing circumstances are national problems, Barts Health NHS Trust demonstrates how localised projects can have measurable impacts on employee motivation. When faced with serious challenges to overcome in effective working, staff satisfaction and team culture, the trust took an innovative, evidence-led approach, and started at the top.
The ‘Super T’ team development initiative focused on eight of the most senior teams, including the CEO and managing directors of the trust’s four individual hospitals, aiming to improve culture, leadership, performance and quality.
In 2015, Barts Health was placed in special measures by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), judged inadequate or requiring improvement on every assessment criteria. Staff survey data also revealed worrying problems with workplace bullying and harassment.
Following a detailed design process, Super T kicked off in 2017. Following an initial team session, used to agree desired outcomes and introduce the programme, the coaching focused on an innovative ‘real work’ concept.
Instead of being taken out of the context of their day-to-day jobs, participants’ development took place in and around working meetings, with the help of accredited coaches equipped to work within the complex systems of the country’s largest acute NHS trust. This allowed leadership teams to learn and get work done at the same time.
Improvements in the projects target areas are already being seen, as well as other unexpected positive outcomes.
At one of the first masterclasses, two of the teams identified strong interdependencies. As a result, they planned a ‘board to board’ meeting to constructively discuss a number of issues that were affecting their performance and patient care.
In February 2019, Barts Health was lifted out of special measures by the CQC, which noted improvements in the leadership, governance and culture of the trust as a whole. Major uplifts have also been seen in the staff survey.
Super T completed in January 2019, but the second cohort is well underway, and learning is already being shared with other NHS trusts in transition.
Barts Health CEO Alwen Williams says: “Super T has given us a real understanding, both individual and collective, of the value of multidisciplinary working and the look and feel of functional, high-performance teams. A big thank you to our organisation development team – we are confident in our future at Barts Health.”