There is an overwhelming body of evidence in the healthcare sector which shows highly engaged staff deliver better care for patients, resulting in stronger financial performance, improved staff wellbeing and lower absenteeism.
But Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (NHFT) had a problem. The 2016 national NHS staff survey showed the trust’s engagement score had decreased to 7.1 out of 10, and only 57 per cent of staff said they would recommend the trust as a place to work.
NHFT also had a significant vacancy rate of over 15 per cent, resulting in a financial deficit due to excessive usage of agency staff, which in turn impacted on staff morale.
So it was time for a change. A new leadership programme was launched in 2017 to encourage employees to see themselves as leaders, better harness potential, work with colleagues to improve outcomes for both patients and staff and to empower them to take personal responsibility for their work.
But that wasn’t it. The trust recognised that additional investment was needed to maximise the benefits of staff engagement projects, and the ‘Let’s Talk’ strategy was developed to encourage communication and co-production to make improvements for NHFT employees.
This new approach, which empowered staff to have a voice in shaping the strategic development of NHFT, resulted in an increase in managers taking a positive interest in their teams’ health, embedding a wellbeing culture across all levels of the trust.
Most importantly, it has seen a reduction in its vacancy rate, from 15.7 per cent in late 2016 to 8.7 per cent in December 2018, demonstrating improved recruitment and retention of staff – therefore reducing NHFT’s dependency on temporary workers and reducing the bills that come with them. In late 2018, NHFT was also named Trust of the Year at the Health Service Journal (HSJ) Awards.