Improving staff engagement has become a priority for NHS leaders, although efforts in this area vary between organisations. University Hospital Bristol NHS Foundation Trust (UH Bristol) is a tertiary teaching hospital where concerns about staff satisfaction and communication were reflected in the 2014 staff survey. To improve staff engagement, a real-time feedback mechanism to capture staff experience and to facilitate feedback from local leaders, was developed and piloted using the Model for Improvement. Initially piloted in two areas in January 2015, the Staff Participation Engagement and Communication application (SPEaC-app) was gradually rolled out to 23 areas within the trust by November 2016.
The 2015 staff survey revealed significant improvements in staff motivation, satisfaction with level of responsibility and involvement, and perceived support from managers. These improvements cannot be attributed to this new mechanism in their entirety, but local surveys indicated satisfaction with SPEaC-app, the majority reporting that giving feedback about their shift was valuable while fewer staff had noticed changes in their work area as a result of the comments made via SPEaC-app. Between March 2015 and November 2016, 9259 entries were recorded, with an average of 15 entries per day across all areas. Of the entries, 45.7% were positive and nearly 40% were negative, and ‘team working’ was the most frequent theme.
The project has identified the key factors associated with usability of the SPEaC-app, including, access, location, reliability and perceived privacy of the SPEaC-app. The SPEaC-app is valued and used most by staff in areas where feedback from local leaders is regular, rapid and comprehensive, and where staff comments are acted upon, leading to tangible change. This suggests that strong, consistent local management is required in order to embed it in new areas. SPEaC-app has the potential to support local engagement between managers and their service delivery teams, stimulate tangible improvements in service delivery and support the process of change. Longer term data are needed to determine whether SPEaC-app can influence other factors including staff turnover, recruitment and retention.
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