The National Health Service (NHS) is more than just a healthcare provider: it’s an integral part of our society. A symbol of security, it provides crucial health and care support to millions every day, and I for one cannot imagine a world where I’m unable to access a healthcare professional’s help. To many therefore, the NHS is our greatest institution.
Yet we cannot ignore that it’s in a crisis. Demand for health and care services is skyrocketing as our population grows, lives longer, and in many cases suffers from multiple conditions, whilst the NHS is struggling to keep up as it grapples with diminishing investment. Simultaneously, it faces record levels of workforce depletion across an intricate ecosystem of doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, healthcare workers, administrators and support staff, all dealing with a range of challenges.
These issues affect employee wellbeing and cast a shadow over the quality of care delivered. To put it simply, a happy healthcare professional is more likely to provide a world-class service than an unhappy one. And without these dedicated individuals, the NHS as we know it would cease to exist. So, retaining and motivating the workforce is paramount.
There’s no “silver bullet” to solve the NHS’ problems, but consider this: more than half of those who quit do so voluntarily, with the top two reasons being the need for a better work-life balance, and personal health concerns1. Surely this highlights the importance of improving staff satisfaction within the NHS?
Picture a revitalised NHS that not only tackles workforce challenges head-on, but also prioritises their wellbeing. Health and care professionals don’t dread going to work, but instead look forward to making a difference. This is key to ensuring a thriving healthcare system.
That’s why staff wellness and engagement should be a fundamental part of health and care transformation. It’s going to take a concerted effort at both local and national level to move the needle (no pun intended), and there’s no one size fits all solution, but now’s the time to unravel the complex challenges, explore the possibilities for change, and champion staff wellbeing on a mission to reimagine the future of health and care.
The heart of the problem: NHS staff dissatisfaction
The King’s Fund found that only a quarter of NHS employees are happy with their pay and staffing levels, and a third often think about leaving1. The important question is, why?
Workload and burnout – The NHS operates round the clock, placing an overwhelming demand on staff. Long shift patterns whilst managing high patient numbers and critical decision-making takes a toll on their physical and mental wellbeing.
Staff shortages – Almost daily reporting of NHS staff shortages highlights the unrelenting strain on employees. Those on duty work longer hours whilst caring for more patients, amplifing the stress they already feel.
Emotional and psychological impact – A lot of us balance long working hours and professional pressure with personal stress. But imagine if your job revolved around treating people’s critical conditions, or coping with patients’ deaths. That emotional fatigue and distress is a great burden to bear.
Bureaucracy and administrative burden – Excessive paperwork, dual-entry to multiple systems and cumbersome processes all add to everyday frustrations, and more importantly, take away valuable time that could be spent on patient care.
Work-life balance – Not all jobs are 9 to 5, but the very nature of working for the NHS (irregular hours, being on-call, dealing with life or death emergencies) contributes to physical and mental fatigue, increased time away from loved ones, and lower quality of life.
By deeply understanding these perspectives of the workforce, we can better empathise with their challenges and more importantly, start to address them. This investment in staff wellness and engagement is both an ethical obligation and a strategic necessity in transforming the future of our healthcare system.
The cure: a three-step approach to NHS staff wellness and engagement
So, how can we begin to transform the system to improve employee experience in an increasingly stretched environment? We recommend a human-centred, three-step approach:
The NHS must consider the perspectives and wellbeing of the workforce. They are the ones navigating the system’s challenges day in, day out, and understand better than anyone the problems needing to be solved.
That’s why “people” is the first step. We recommend conducting health assessments revolving around staff, helping the NHS to listen to its people and identify key opportunities for impactful change.
The research collated from the “people” stage then empowers a human-centred design approach, creating future frontline and support services that address employees’ real-world challenges.
Using workforce modelling, the NHS can map new health and care processes and pathways that help staff deliver the right care, at the right time, in the right place, creating truly transformed services that deliver quality healthcare whilst promoting employee wellbeing.
We recommend keeping staff engaged and informed throughout the human-centred design process, so they feel a valued and intrinsic part of NHS transformation. Encouraging staff participation and collaboration every step along the way doesn’t just ensure their needs are met, it also gains their buy-in and commitment so new processes and models of care can successfully improve citizen experiences.
This cultural and mindset shift is essential to embed changing workplace practices. That’s why CGI works with a specialist in “Modern Mindset Theory” - Adapt2Digital, to help take NHS senior leadership, change champions and project managers on a transformation journey that encourages deep cultural and behavioural change for the better.
Technology is the enabler of NHS transformation, using the power of artificial intelligence, automation, cyber security, cloud and infrastructure to empower the workforce to deliver the best quality healthcare support to citizens.
For example, digitising routine tasks will lessen the burden on staff, freeing up time to focus on more complicated, people-focused care scenarios that rely upon human intervention.
We also recommend implementing employee experience solutions to help build a better workplace culture that prioritises employee satisfaction and communication, consequently helping to increase productivity and quality of service. CGI partners with Trickle to implement a cloud-based, employee experience and continuous improvement platform that will help create a modernised NHS that recognises, attracts and retains valuable staff.
We’re here to help keep the heart of the NHS beating
As a trusted advisor to the health and care sector, we put people first. Our four-proposition approach (highlighted in the diagram below) makes staff wellness and engagement a crucial component of NHS transformation, as we empower healthcare professionals with intelligent, sustainable and healthy ways of working, and the ability to provide citizens with efficient access to the best quality support.
Using our first-hand experience and partnerships in the sector, we help NHS organisations prioritise employee engagement and wellbeing through the likes of policy writing, mental health support, training and development pathways, recognition and feedback mechanisms, wellness programmes, and leadership support.
If you want to learn more about our vision for the future of health and care, and how we can support NHS staff wellness and engagement, read our brochure. Or please click here if you’d like an informal chat about our service offerings.