Blog post

Digging into the data to drive improvement

A blog ahead of the 2023 NHS Staff Survey results by John Drew, director of staff experience and engagement at NHS England.
John Drew

4 March 2024

The results of the 2023 NHS Staff Survey will be published on the Staff Survey Coordination Centre on Thursday 7 March. John Drew from NHS England outlines why it's important to dig into the data and learn from the findings to improve staff experience at all levels. 

The NHS Staff Survey is the world’s largest annual workforce survey, running for over 20 years. Managing the responses of over 600,000 people year-on-year (636,348 in 2022) is a huge task. Real care is taken to meet the official statistic standards, to ensure we maintain confidence in the quality of the data and the insights it provides on the experiences of our staff.  

NHS Staff Survey data provides an accurate picture of what it’s like to work in the NHS. It is used by all participating NHS organisations to improve the working environment for our colleagues, patients and service users, as well as realising the ambitions set out in the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan. While for the third year running, the results have been mapped to the seven elements of the NHS People Promise

"Importantly, line managers and teams can interpret their own data locally to identify ways to improve factors within their control"

Importantly, line managers and teams can interpret their own data locally to identify ways to improve factors within their control, like how they work as a team and make and act on suggestions. The same data is aggregated organisationally, regionally and nationally to inform the changes that are best led at each level.  
This year, a new question relating to sexual violence in the workplace was introduced into the survey, aiming to gather data to help organisations understand the potential prevalence of sexual misconduct within their organisation and inform action to protect and support staff across the NHS. 

NHS England launched the first-ever sexual safety charter in 2023, in collaboration with healthcare systems. The charter provides staff with clear reporting mechanisms, training and support when dealing with sexual misconduct. We are currently implementing the guidance, training and policies to protect and support staff and ensure there is a zero-tolerance approach to this issue.

"Last year’s survey results showed improvements in some important areas"

Last year’s survey results showed improvements in some important areas: the percentages of staff agreeing their manager encourages them at work and provides clear feedback improved across all trust types. 

We saw an overall increase in people feeling able to discuss flexible working with their line manager (68.5 per cent, up from 66.9 per cent), and a rise in those saying their organisation is committed to helping them balance work and home life (45.7 per cent, up from 44.4 per cent).  
Throughout 2023, the quarterly engagement score (collected through the National Quarterly Pulse Survey) improved both in April and July. We have also seen the percentage of staff leaving the NHS workforce fall steadily from its post-pandemic peak of 9.4 per cent in August 2022, to 7.7 per cent in December 2023, equivalent to an additional 16,500 staff. 

The introduction of quarterly engagement scores for all NHS organisations has helped raise the profile of our staff surveys and keeps our data relevant and up to date throughout the year, with the sample size now growing to around 125,000.

After the challenges of the past 12 months, including continued industrial action, it is as important as ever we listen to staff and focus on changing their experience for the better. This is best done by taking an improvement-based approach and making it a year-round activity.

"After the challenges of the past 12 months, it is as important as ever we listen to staff and focus on changing their experience for the better"

Following feedback from stakeholders, we have improved the functionality of the NHS Staff Survey reporting dashboard. The new dashboard shows trends and breakdowns but now also offers additional two-factor analysis. 

These updates will improve our knowledge around intersectionality and further enhance the understanding of employee experience, allowing the delivery of tailored interventions. For example, the new dashboard will allow deeper understanding of female doctors, or nurses who were recruited from outside of the UK.  

So please dig into the data, use resources such as the listening well guidance and take the time to read and understand the results and identify what you can do to drive improvements within your own area. We all have a part to play when it comes to improving staff experience, knowing this ultimately benefits everyone, including our patients and users.

For further information on the NHS Staff Survey and results for 2023, contact