Proactive Organisation Development for teams and team leaders is required to develop and retain staff on the frontline as we come through the Covid-19 pandemic
Dr Michael Reilly is a qualified Psychologist and Director at Change Corp. He has previously worked with NHS and public sector organisations on transformation projects such as digital patient pathways, managing change, online mental health services for patients and online education portals for GPs.
Before Covid-19 staffing within the NHS was already in crisis. In previous Blogs we at Change Corp have discussed the importance of wellbeing and engagement of team leaders and team members across multiple sectors – largely due to remote working, increased levels of anxiety and what some call “cabin fever”.
But what of the challenges for those healthcare professionals in the front line during the pandemic? What role can Organisation Development interventions play in enhancing the wellbeing of those healthcare professionals as the NHS and other services face burn out, perhaps vast numbers leaving the profession and not enough thought on what retention innovations are required?
The pandemic can only exacerbate what was already a deep fault line within the NHS.
Figures from NHS Improvement in England (2018) revealed one in 11 positions remained unfilled. The data, which covered the last three months of 2017, showed the NHS in England had 100,000 vacant posts, including 35,000 nurses and almost 10,000 doctors. NHS Improvement said the shortage of staff contributed to the winter pressures faced by the NHS. About 5.6 million people visited A&E in England in the last quarter of 2017 and almost half a million people were admitted to hospital in December alone.
The age profile of the current nursing workforce also poses a challenge. We know that a third of nurses are over 50 and could retire in the next decade. NMC registration figures (NMC, 2017b) showed there were now more nurses leaving than joining the register, with the total number of nurse registrants 5,047 lower in 2017 than 2016. The number of EU nurses has seen the largest drop, with a huge reduction of 96% of EU nurses joining the register following the Brexit vote.
The impact of the ageing workforce and the failure to promote nursing effectively amongst the postmillennial generation is already being felt widely across the four UK countries. Attention must be paid to both recruitment and retention to ensure a nursing workforce for the future (Source: Royal College of Nursing)
The pandemic has required the NHS and care workforce to rise to new, unprecedented and sustained challenges. However, the cost of tackling the consequences of the pandemic must not be underestimated, particularly in terms of staff mental and physical wellbeing. The evidence provided to the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee (Delivering core NHS and care services during the pandemic and beyond – 1st October, 2020) has shown that much of the NHS and care workforce is fatigued, exhausted and otherwise “burnt out” with no obvious let up or plan to relieve the pressure in sight. This has damaged staff morale.
Professor Andrew Goddard (President, Royal College of Physicians) told the Committee:
“The workforce is really tired at the moment. […]That is all parts of the workforce, not just doctors; it is nurses and other healthcare professionals, who are all part of the hospital team. There is a mountain that people know they have to climb; they are willing to climb it and willing to pull together to do it, but it seems quite a large mountain at the moment. The worry that the peak is going to get higher in winter is a big one”
Responding to the NHS Staff Survey 2020 and NHS England’s monthly NHS performance statistics, Dr Jennifer Dixon, Chief Executive of the Health Foundation, said:
“research figures show that, even before the second wave, NHS staff were stressed and exhausted. Over a third had worked on a COVID ward, and nearly half reported being unwell due to work-related stress. With increasing dissatisfaction with pay, and significant staff shortages, skimping on salaries is likely to be a false economy. The government must translate the praise it heaps on NHS staff into practical support and investment to help them recover.
‘The government and NHS leaders will now need to be clear with the public about how they intend to deal with the backlog of unmet need, as well as achieve the ambitions to modernise care set out in the NHS long term plan.”
OD and Change practitioners need to step up, and position as a resource that can offer support to healthcare organisations as they face challenges severely exposed as we come through the Covid-19 pandemic
Progressive organisations are crowdsourcing ideas and guidance on how to support the emotional well-being of their employees. Change Corp is skilled in implementing intervention that focus on team development for a new future, and which can directly address wellbeing and burn out and re-energise the motivation to stay in the healthcare profession. Of course there also has to be associated factors e.g. pay, working conditions etc. OD can only be part of an integrated plan that has suitable investment. For more information on our Team Leaders for the future programme book a demo here: Free Demo
We have also produced a Keeping Well video and Manual for team leaders- which is FREE to download, just follow this link
Contact us if you would like to discuss how Change Corp can support you in these challenging times.