05 / 03 / 2009
Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust provides a range of acute services across three sites, including Queen Alexandra Hospital, St Mary's Hospital and the Royal Hospital Haslar. The trust also hosts the largest Ministry of Defence Hospital Unit (MDHU) in the country, and enjoys strong military connections. This means that the trust has wider responsibilities than other NHS organisations. Military staff account for three per cent of the total workforce and the trust has a responsibility to ensure those staff have exposure to the appropriate clinical experience which will be required during their times of military deployment throughout the world. Portsmouth Hospitals employs over 7000 staff.
The 2006 staff survey highlighted that some staff felt that they were listened to by their immediate manager and divisional team, but they were not listened to by those at the executive level of the organisation. Good practice in other large acute trusts showed that an open forum, led by a skilled facilitator with the chief executive and executive team present, is one of the best tools to add value to employee engagement. It was also identified that any feedback and actions that arose from the forum should be disseminated efficiently and acted upon quickly and appropriately.
How we did it
Open forums were scheduled to take place at each of the three sites on a monthly rotation, so that staff from all sites had an equal opportunity to attend and contribute. It was decided to run the forums at lunch time as this was time that most staff were available to attend - lunch and beverages were provided. The forum was split into two parts: the first part provided an opportunity for the chief executive to give an update of the trust's activity; the second part provided a chance for staff to ask, discuss and debate anything that is of concern or interest to them. Questions are also taken to the forums from staff who are unable to attend. The CEO also uses the forums as a sounding board to test out new ideas. Around 35 staff attend the forums, on a ‘pop in – pop out’ basis, this gives staff the freedom to attend for the amount of time they wish. And as people are coming and going (without any recrimination), nobody feels awkward or embarrassed.
A number of feedback mechanisms, including the trust's fortnightly newsletter, website, team brief and executive team meetings are used to ensure that staff who are not able to attend can hear what was discussed.
The trust is also setting up ‘cut to the chase email’. This is e-mail box that can be accessed by any member of staff, and which will go directly to the chief executive. Staff can ask any question, make a statement or feedback on anything they want. The CEO will reply to them. It makes a difference to staff, knowing how to contact the most senior person in an organisation, whether they feel they need to contact them or not. It’s just the ‘knowing’ that makes the difference. This scheme is currently in development and hoping to ‘go live’ in the summer.
Results and next steps
By holding these forums it has enabled open and honest discussions to take place and has resulted in any rumours being dispelled. The chief executive thinks the forums are a fantastic opportunity to meet staff and find out exactly what staff perceptions are at all levels of the trust.
The feedback gathered at each session is arranged into themes which the chief executive takes to the executive team. Feedback is not usually surprising, the trust is going through a large Private Finance Initiative (PFI) at the moment and there is massive change as a result. Sometimes there is an issue that appears to be quite small, but it has a big effect and is normally relatively easy to fix, an example would be a lack of understanding of working practices of another department which a simple review of the communication links put right.
The trust will use a series of engagement measurement tools and events to review the effectiveness of a number of initiatives, including the NHS Constitution, national staff survey outcomes and the forums.
Further information about staff engagement
For more information about staff engagement activities at Portsmouth contact Samantha Coley, Employee Engagement Manager 02392 866554 Samantha.email@example.com