Investing in staff to deliver better patient care

Clare Price-Dowd, registered nurse and senior programme lead at NHS Leadership Academy, says that investing in your staff is the only way to deliver high quality patient care

It’s become more common than we could have ever imagined before. The constant need for efficiency savings and budget constraints is all around us, yet we all still want the system to continue delivering the best care possible for patients. With pressure mounting, NHS Trusts across the country have to make the difficult decision about how to make savings. Often one of the options they choose is to reduce staff which ultimately has a knock on effect on the care being delivered at the frontline. A recent example of this is the decision to close down the Accident and Emergency Department at Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust. Although it’s understandable in this tough financial climate – especially now with an uncertain future ahead for the NHS with Brexit, there is another way – invest in your staff to build a better future for patients.

Delivering best possible care
Healthcare has always been about patient care. That’s one common goal each and every service provider and health professional share – they want to deliver the best possible care for their patients, to help them feel better and live a happy, healthy life. Having compassionate, caring staff delivering services is the way to achieve this, and we know there have been a lot of problems maintaining good morale, especially after the publication of the Francis Report in 2012. Caring for our staff to help them become resilient, passionate leaders who truly care and want to make a difference is what’s needed. If we don’t care for our staff how do we expect them to care for other people?

A report by The Point of Care Foundation, a project hosted by The Kings Fund, found that nearly 30 per cent of staff sickness in the NHS is due to stress. It also pointed out that NHS staff engagement fell for three consecutive years from 2009 and only 55 per cent of staff would recommend their organisation as a place to work. If organisations were given that drive to invest in their staff, to truly make their place of work somewhere staff want to get up for in the morning, could they save £555 million and reduce the sickness rate? Imagine where that money could then be spent? I’m sure everyone has a long list for their own organisation.

Another shocking figure is the amount we spend on agency staff. Since 2015, the amount of money the NHS has been spending on agency staff has increased by £400 million, bringing in people on a temporary basis to fill the gaps that we’ve no doubt at some point created ourselves. Surely if we put this money to better use by investing in substantive posts we’d be able to make things better without having to fork out an extra amount? We’ll be able to develop leaders who will be able inspire and motivate their teams to ensure people will not want to leave their roles behind, reduce sickness and provide care we’ll be proud of.

A show of value
Let’s show patients, carers and their families that we really do care, not just for them clinically as they pass through our departments and receive our services, but about them as individuals by ensuring we remain focused on offering the best experience we can. In these tough times where money is so scarce, let’s also not lose sight of caring for and about our colleagues by investing in our current and future leaders. Only then will we be able to develop a culture in an organisation where everyone feels valued and where the best services are delivered. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy – but then when is anything in life which is worth fighting for easy to do? Let’s rise to the challenge and continue delivering an NHS which future generations will be proud of.

It’s a simple message really; our staff are the future for the NHS. They will make or break the health service ultimately, investing in our staff is the only way we’ll deliver better patient care.

Further Information: 

NHS Leadership Academy