‘Our NHS staff deserve better’, watchdog warns over poor survey results
PUBLISHED: 17:27 19 February 2020 | UPDATED: 08:36 20 February 2020
More NHS staff in Suffolk look forward to going to work – but rising numbers of workers are reporting being bullied, harassed or abused by managers.
Thousands of health workers from across the region have had their say in the latest NHS staff survey for 2019.
How did Suffolk's main health organisations fare?
Suffolk's major hospitals received a mixed bag of responses - with the West Suffolk improving in several categories, aside from wellbeing and work-related stress.
Nearly a third (32.7%) of respondents from the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), which runs Ipswich and Colchester hospitals, said they had witnessed an error, near miss or incident that could have hurt patients in the last month - the worst score in the country for acute and community hospital trusts.
There were several poor scores for the East of England Ambulance Service and the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) - with the former ranked the worst ambulance trust in the country in a number of categories.
'System under immense pressure - but leaders have responsibility to improve'
Andy Yacoub, of independent watchdog Healthwatch Suffolk, said the county's NHS staff deserve better.
He added: "The ranking of 'worst' or 'near worst in the country' appears against too many categories for our regional trusts.
"Our local NHS workforce and their volunteers deserve better.
"The system is under immense pressure - which is clearly reflected in this annual national survey - and our leaders have a responsibility to do everything possible to make whatever improvements they can."
MORE: 'Lot of work to do' - Staff survey highlights wellbeing and bullying concerns at ambulance trust
Just 16.5% of staff at the ambulance service said the organisation provided positive action to health and wellbeing.
The trust, which covers six counties, saw bullying once again highlighted - just a month after the deaths of three staff members prompted a major investigation into the trust's culture.
It achieved the worst score of any ambulance trust with 20.9% reporting they had been bullied, harassed or abused by a manager.
Meanwhile, the NSFT scored poorly for staff feeling ill with work-related stress in the last year, with 49.8% - the worst score for a mental health trust in the whole country.
Almost one in four workers (28.4%) felt their role was not making a difference to patients, which was again the worst score in the country.
However, above average numbers of staff - 55.2% - said they looked forward to going to work.
Just 10.6% of staff completing the survey at West Suffolk Hospital said they had experienced harassment, bullying or abuse from managers - while 91.8% felt their role was making a difference to patients.
Nearly one in seven staff (66.5%) said they looked forward to going to work.
ESNEFT received a mixed bag of responses - with 40.9% of people admitting they felt ill through work-related stress in the last year, 20.1% looking to leave the trust and 57.7% saying they looked forward to going to work.
Union warns of 'serious crisis'
Union bosses have warned ambulance bosses could have a serious crisis on its hands if it does not act fast.
Eastern regional organiser Sam Older said: "Ambulance bosses must sit up and take notice of what staff are telling them.
"Many of these problems come down to the trust being short-staffed and under-resourced, so the revelation that more than a third of staff want to leave in the next year is particularly worrying.
"If the trust doesn't stem the flow of people leaving it could have a serious crisis on its hands.
"Ultimately, it's patients that will suffer if staff are too overwhelmed to do their jobs."
'Heading in the right direction'
An EEAST spokesman said the majority of results had shown a slight improvement indicating it was heading 'in the right direction'.
"We still have a lot of work to do in many areas over the coming weeks and months," the spokesman added.
"Unfortunately, the recent survey did indicate that some of our staff are still experiencing bullying and harassment at work.
"No-one should have to put up with this and it will not be tolerated.
"We actively encourage all our staff to report problems and, indeed, the number of people reporting issues has increased".
The trust said it was "extremely important" for staff to report issues so it could tackle the problem head on.
Survey results 'extremely alarming' for patients and carers - campaigners
Mental health doctor and Central Suffolk and north Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter said the NSFT's results were "clearly disappointing".
He added: "Low staff morale is a symptom of the challenges currently facing the mental health trust.
"It is important that the new leadership team at the trust, which is already beginning to improve services, works closely with staff to help raise morale and this in turn will help to improve patient care."
Campaigners fighting for better mental health services said the survey results reveal a lack of improvement and leadership.
"NSFT received the lowest scores of any mental health trust for health and wellbeing of staff, immediate managers, morale, quality of care and staff engagement," said a spokesman for the Campaign for Better Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk.
"We and our local MPs were promised new management and rapid improvements within weeks more than a year ago.
"The board told us that the radical restructure introduced new management and clinical leadership.
"The CQC claimed that the trust had improved.
He added: "But frontline staff, patients, carers and coroners know the truth - the NHS staff survey exposes the lack of genuine improvement and clinical leadership.
"More than 40% of doctors and one-third of registered nurses say they regularly think about leaving the mental health trust, with 18% of doctors and 17% of registered nurses saying they intend to leave as soon as they can find alternative employment.
"At a mental health trust with hundreds of vacancies and long waiting lists, this is extremely alarming for patients and carers."
What did the NHS trusts involved have to say?
West Suffolk Hospital
Jeremy Over, director of workforce and communications, said the results are an important gauge of the health of the organisation and happiness of staff.
"It's encouraging that we've made improvements in many areas since last year, but there is more we need to do so that we get it right for every member of the WSFT team," he added.
"It's particularly pleasing that staff feel they can make a difference to patients and are saying they feel more supported by their immediate managers.
"But we want to do more to improve health and wellbeing initiatives and to try and reduce the number of staff feeling stressed at work, as these are areas that have taken a dip since last year and are vital in keeping people not just happy, but healthy.
He continued: "We are moving in the right direction, but we're not complacent and are determined to keep improving.
"Our CQC report raised concerns about our culture that we absolutely acknowledge and accept.
"We need to take that feedback and these staff survey results, and use them to steer improvements and changes so we make WSFT a place where every member of staff feels supported, listened to and valued."
Trust bosses said the organisation had 175 more clinical staff working there in the last 12 months.
"We recognise fully the issues that our staff have raised and are actively working with them to address these concerns," a spokeswoman said.
"One of our areas of focus will be on health and wellbeing and the support staff receive from their immediate managers.
"Making sure our trust is somewhere people want to work is one of our top priorities.
"The management and leadership of the trust has been completely restructured with the final stage being completed from March this year. This has ensured we have strong clinical leadership with service users and carer involvement.
"Our most improved staff survey score was the percentage of staff (76%) saying the care of patients and service users is our organisation's top priority.
"When comparing our trust to other mental health trusts on leadership and culture, NSFT was ranked as the most improved trust."
A spokeswoman for the trust said: "We always encourage all of our staff to highlight and report all issues involving errors or incidents.
"There is an open and honest approach to reporting.
"Almost 94% of staff who responded to the survey went on to say that once they had seen an error, near miss or incident that they had reported it."
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