Colchester: Hospital’s bid to boost staff morale

ACTION is being taken to boost morale among doctors, nurses and other hospital staff after a recent survey revealed that it had reached a new low.

The number of staff who would recommend Colchester General Hospital and Essex County Hospital as a place to work or receive treatment has dropped significantly in a year, according to the 2010 National Staff Survey.

The report said that staff at the hospitals, which are run by Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust, were more stressed, suffering more work-related injuries and witnessing more potentially harmful errors than in 2009 and compared with the 2010 national average.

A new plan to tackle the issues which were identified by the NHS survey was announced at a meeting of the Trust’s board of directors yesterday.

Changes which are being brought in include new staff meetings, extra research to highlight particular issues which have been raised specific to gender, ethnicity and age, an effort to learn from exemplary trusts around the country and an improvement in communication at all levels.

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In his report Rob Bowman, director of workforce, acknowledged that “there are a significant number of areas which have deteriorated on the previous survey and which are now below average”.

He added that that staff were telling them they were “working harder, working under pressure, feel less well organised, are not supported by their immediate managers, are unclear about their roles, not communicated with, not engaged, lacking a voice in helping improve things, get limited support in appraisal and feedback and report low levels of job satisfaction”.

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The survey was completed by more than 50% of the workforce (437 staff), between last October and January.

At the board meeting, chief executive Gordon Coutts warned against a “knee-jerk” reaction to the results.

“We would normally wish to act quickly, but we need to balance this with taking the time to really understand what our staff are telling us,” he said.

Mr Bowman agreed, adding: “We are looking to understand the staff experience at a local level and agree with them what action should be taken.

“We have formed a reference group from a wide range of staff and we are working with them about what our priorities should be.”

He said that the Trust would be looking to other organisations outside the NHS – particularly businesses in the Sunday Times Top 100 Employer list – to try and establish best practice at the hospitals.

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