Health Policy February 27, 2019
1 in 5 NHS staff members experience harassment from colleagues

By News Feature - Accountable Care Journal

The recent NHS staff survey revealed that the number of staff who experience harassment from colleagues has risen from 18 per cent to 19.1 per cent. However, fewer staff reported experiencing physical violence from patients, relatives or members of the public.

Despite clear resource limitations and service reform, the number of NHS staff that agree there are enough people in their organisation for them to do their job properly has risen to the highest proportion in the last five years, at 32 per cent. However, this leaves two-thirds of the workforce in need of more support to deliver adequate services for patients.

The picture is not all bleak. Overall, staff are feeling more positively about their roles, 74 per cent saying they feel enthusiastic about their jobs, up 6 per cent from four years ago. While this figure still leaves a lot to be desired, it may offer some reassurance to health executives who fear that staff shortages and pressures on wards are steering services towards breaking point.

Increasing coverage of BME staff 

This year’s survey provides a more accurate picture than ever before of the experience of staff from minority backgrounds, with 78,006 responses recorded from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds. The result has been uncovered a disparity in the levels of harassment BME staff are experiencing from patients, the survey revealing a 1.3 per cent increase for BME staff and 0.1 per cent for white staff members. This is in part responsible for the rise in overall figures. However, the increase could also be seen as more BME staff now feel they are able to report such instances.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has made it clear that workforce is one of his core priorities for the next few years. Increases in funding have been offered and ambitious structural reforms are underway. However, workforce shortages and recruitment and retention pressures may need more of a boost before the desired improvements become a reality.

“We cannot ignore the fact that staff are increasingly feeling unwelcome pressure for a variety of reasons,” said Danny Mortimer, Chief Executive of NHS Employers, “Importantly, they are telling employers that there is still more to do to address the issue of discrimination and bullying and to support their well-being. ”

However, more staff are satisfied with the recognition received for good work, an increase of 3.7 per cent, and over seven in ten agreed they receive the respect they deserve from work colleagues and their manager.

The results underlined a "need to change and improve the culture of the NHS" said Baroness Dido Harding, Chair of NHS Improvement, "to make sure every member of staff is supported to develop and thrive. ”  

“A key part of the workforce implementation plan is looking at how we can make the NHS the best place to work for current and future staff and to improve our leadership capabilities at team, organisation and system levels,” she added.

The survey, conducted between September and December 2018 across 304 NHS organisations, received the highest number of responses in its history. The data represents 40 per cent of the eligible NHS workforce.

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