Forgive the length, but I’ve never felt so moved to put my thoughts down on paper (or computer!) so whether this gets read, shared or completely ignored…I still feel better for writing it.
I’ve seen so many stories as of late, lamenting the state of the NHS. The spiralling debt, the lack of cleanliness, the quality of care etc. Now, I’m not in a position to confirm or deny any of the above, nor do I have the insight of working in, or knowing someone closely who works in, the NHS but I would like to pen this open letter to Jeremy Hunt, Simon Stevens, or anyone else who has responsibility for decision making or setting the strategic direction of the NHS.
Maybe what I do for a living helps, but IN MY OPINION, I think the answer to solving these issues (if they are truly issues) is pretty simple, and it’s this:
VALUE. YOUR. EMPLOYEES.
In fact, given the jobs they do and the environment they have to work in….treasure them.
This isn’t rocket science, moreover it’s proven to work. Successful FTSE 100 companies have known this for years, that’s why they’re successful.
How do you do it?
1. Pay them a fair and competitive wage
Employees of the NHS (and when I say Employees, I mean ALL Employees, Consultants, Doctors, Nurses, Anaesthetists, porters, cleaners, catering staff, reception staff, security staff and the many, many more) have to go through rigorous training and assessments, comply with regulatory requirements and standards, work unsociable hours, be available to work at short notice and work unscheduled, longer shifts, carry out duties that many of us would not wish, never mind be able to do. In private industry, these requirements in a role would result in an appropriately competitive wage. Perhaps not a significant one in some roles, but certainly not the lowest a company can get away with. There’s a nifty thing called salary benchmarking that I’d be happy to talk you through……..
2. Give them a work life balance
I’m willing to bet the vast majority of employees are part of a family unit, and even those that aren’t need time to rest and recuperate to be able to perform at their best as and when required, so give them a break. Give them the basic right to spend time with their families or alone with their thoughts. These people witness more emotion, heartbreak, stress and grief than I’m willing to bet any of you do in a lifetime. Be thankful for that and show it by recognising it and giving them the appropriate level of support and therapy – most of which you don’t even have to pay for, just let them spend time with their kids /spouses / parents / families / friends.
3. Empower them to make decisions
I don’t know about you, but when I’m in pain, scared, feeling a lack of control over my situation, I want the person best qualified, with first-hand experience to make the important decisions about my life and my wellbeing – I don’t want a manager in an office 10 yards away behind a closed door, never mind one a hundred miles away who has never even set foot in the building, I want a nurse or a matron or somebody who has been there, seen it, done it, knows what’s best to make the decision.
4. Recognise and reward loyalty, commitment, positivity and perseverance
Believe me, your Employees have it in droves – they have to, to keep doing what they are doing even though you and your comrades seem to be doing everything possible to bully it out of them!
5. Walk the floor
This is perhaps where my experience helps, but believe me nothing will give you a better understanding of what your teams need than actually getting in there and talking to them, seeing what they do, working alongside them. Not sitting a hundred miles away or concocting ‘representative groups’ to meet with as and when your diary permits to give you a ‘representative perspective’ of those on the ground.
6. Put in place a sensible structure with clear lines of accountability
Now this one I’m just guessing but as the NHS is apparently among the top 5 largest workforces in the world – after such giants as the Indian Railways and the Chinese Army – I’m betting they both have something in droves that the NHS does not. Structure and accountability. I’m willing to bet one of the biggest frustrations of those working within the NHS is who the hell to contact or talk to when something needs doing that they aren’t empowered to do themselves, or if they do know who to ask but whatever they need doesn’t get done or provided – who do they go to, who do they escalate their disappointment and frustration to? And can that person do anything about addressing their frustration? (That takes us back to number 3 ;-))
7. Reduce the amount spent on expensive temporary staff, agency staff and management consultants
This may be a bit of no brainer, but the point is, if you do numbers 1 to 6, YOU WON’T NEED THEM, because your happy, engaged, valued teams will be more than sufficient to run the efficient, effective NHS EVERYONE in this country so desperately wants to see.
Anyone is welcome to disagree, and of course, I’m sure there are many elements to the NHS that would benefit from better leadership and support, but if you start with your people, I’ll let you into a secret…….they’ll do the rest for you!!!!!!!!!
(For my own part, I’m not going to charge you an exorbitant management consultancy fee, you can have this one on me……….you’re welcome