Scots NHS staff 'feel more positive'

Hospital corridor Image copyright Thinkstock

NHS staff in Scotland are feeling more positive about the health service than they were a year ago, according to an annual survey.

Health workers responded more positively to 26 of the 29 key questions in the NHS Scotland staff survey compared to last year.

But staffing levels and a lack of consultation from managers continued to be the biggest concerns.

More than 55,000 of NHS Scotland's 157,000 staff took part in the survey.

The key findings included:

  • 90% of staff said they were happy to go the "extra mile" at work when required (up 3% since 2013)
  • 67% said the care of patients or service users was a top priority for their health board (up 12%)
  • 61% would recommend their workplace as a good place to work (up 10%)
  • 86% of staff are clear what their duties and responsibilities are (up 3%)
  • 6% said they had experience unfair discrimination from their manager in the last 12 months (down 2%)
  • 9% said they had experienced bullying or harassment from their manager (down 2%)

When asked about being consulted about change at work, 29% responded positively and 46% negatively, while 33% were positive and 46% negative about there being "enough staff for me to do my job properly".

However, the results for both questions showed a slight improvement on the previous year, when when 26% responded positively to being consulted at work, and 31% responding positively to staffing levels.

Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Scotland director Theresa Fyffe said that the results from this year's survey showed that staff's experience of working for NHS Scotland had improved in many areas.

'Take action'

She added: "Given the pressures our NHS is currently facing, this reflects staff's dedication and commitment to the organisation."

The survey found that the number of nurses and midwives who believed it was safe to speak up and challenge the way things are done if they have concerns about quality had improved, up to 57% this year.

Mrs Fyffe said: "This is still an area which needs substantial improvement, but perhaps, like getting their priorities right, health boards are starting to realise that they must listen to their staff's concerns and take action."

Elsewhere only 25% of nurses agreed that there are enough staff for them to do their job properly - lower than the overall figure of 33%.

Mrs Fyffe added: "After years of cuts, the number of nurses and midwives working in our NHS is now going up, but so, too, is demand for services.

"We cannot continue to ask nurses to juggle all the demands they face trying to deal with more and more patients, without enough staff."

'Quality of care'

Dr Peter Bennie, chairman of the BMA in Scotland, said it was "disappointing" that some of the most negative responses in the survey related to engagement and involvement of NHS staff.

He said: "There is clearly much to be done to break down barriers between staff in management roles and those delivering healthcare so that all staff are able to influence decisions that affect them and as a result, the quality of care for patients."

He also said it was "deeply concerning" that a third of staff reported that they had experienced emotional or verbal abuse from patients or other members of the public.

Dr Bennie added: "Staff in all grades in all areas of the NHS deserve to be treated with respect and it is vital that they are supported by managers and colleagues to try to reduce this type of behaviour during the course of their work.

"Despite public statements by government and the NHS that they are working to improve how NHS staff can raise concerns, it is disappointing that this does not seem to have delivered the cultural change that gives confidence to staff to speak out."

'Right direction'

Health Secretary Shona Robison said the annual feedback from staff working throughout the NHS was "extremely important in letting us know what is going right and where we can make improvements."

She added: "Under this Government, NHS staff numbers have risen to record levels, with increasing numbers of consultants, nurses and midwives delivering care for the people of Scotland this year.

"Clearly it is welcome that increasing numbers of staff find working for Scotland's NHS a positive experience and there are definite indications that we are moving in the right direction.

"However that is not to say that there aren't challenges to be addressed, in particular making staff feel more engaged and involved in the decisions being made within their health board."