Blog post

Ch-ch-changes (to the NHS Staff Survey)

Read Steven Weeks' blog exploring changes to the NHS Staff Survey.

5 August 2021

Steven Weeks, policy manager at NHS Employers, takes a brief look at the upcoming changes to the NHS Staff Survey, what they mean for employers and things to consider.

Apologies to all fans of the late great David Bowie, the rest of the article will not be a lyrical ode to aging gracefully but a brief overview of the recently published changes to the NHS Staff Survey.

The NHS Staff Survey is the largest employee survey in Europe and one of the largest in the world. Over the past eight months NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSEI) has been working with input from the Staff Survey Advisory Group, bringing together staff side, trusts and other users of the survey, to review its focus and refresh the questions. The results are used by trusts at a local level and by national bodies, and by regulators and NHSEI and NHS Employers to inform workforce policies. Staff side unions also use the data and it is cited in the media and by MPs.

The main aim of the review was set out in the 2020 NHS People Plan to align the survey questions more closely with the NHS People Promise. The survey has 32 questions (or 100 if all options are treated as questions) covering the main areas of staff experience - from health and wellbeing to staff engagement - as well as staff perception on quality of care and equality and diversity and workplace issues, such as the role of line managers and team working.

New questions have been introduced on key issues including workforce burnout and equalities. The staff engagement question set has been retained, and the wording revised in areas on equality and diversity, and line managers. A question set on senior managers has been removed as had been confusing and not widely used. COVID-19 related questions similar to those in 2020 have been kept in, together with free text option responses.

Survey documents related to conducting the survey

These changes should enable us to get to a better picture of overall staff experience on a broader basis than what we have currently. How the data will be analysed and presented is under discussion and more information will be shared over the coming months. The main aim will be to link to the NHS People Promise. It will provide more useful data on a range of issues, which were not fully covered in the old staff survey, such as quality of team working.

However, as the maxim goes, the more things change the more they remain the same, and the main challenge of the survey at the current time is likely to be response rates. These held up overall last year and even improved in some areas. NHS Employers recognises that implementation of the survey, which will be challenging in current context of increased pressures.

Organisations should also think about how they will make best use of the data. Evidence demonstrates response rates are highest in those trusts which make best use of the data and share what they are doing with staff, preferably working with them to develop solutions.

NHS Employers will be updating our advice on how to make best use of the staff survey data and if you have a query around any of the changes please get touch.