Blog post

Staff voices matter

Director of staff experience and engagement at NHS England John Drew explains the power of the NHS Staff Survey and why employee voices matter.

9 October 2023


This year not only marks the 75th birthday of the NHS, it also marks the 20th anniversary of the NHS Staff Survey. Now open for 2023, our annual workforce survey is one of the largest of its kind in the world.  

The NHS Staff Survey is the primary method of listening to staff which we use to measure progress and improvement against the seven elements of the People Promise.

Run independently, it gives 1.5 million people the opportunity to anonymously share their experience of working in the NHS. It lets our NHS People tell us, in their own words, what we can do to improve their experience and to make the NHS the best possible place to work.  

The Long Term Workforce Plan (LTWP), which was published in June, sets out the NHS’s aim to train, reform and retain the workforce. Retention of talented colleagues is an integral part of improving staff experience and the NHS Staff Survey gives us precious insights into how to do that.

By better supporting people throughout their careers, boosting opportunities to work flexibly and continuing to improve the culture and leadership across the NHS, we can ensure up to 130,000 fewer staff leave the NHS over the next 15 years. Just imagine what a difference that will make. 
The 2022 NHS Staff Survey results provided invaluable insight into our colleagues’ experiences. Nationally, the percentage agreeing that their manager gives clear feedback was at a five-year high and there was a general improvement in the questions measuring ‘involvement’, where a higher proportion of staff said they feel able to make improvements happen in their area of work.  

Organisations and systems are increasingly focused on understanding and improving the workplace experience of staff, knowing how fundamental this is to delivering excellent patient care.  

From the recently released EDI Improvement Plan, which helps support belonging in the NHS, to our more recent work implementing the recommendations outlined in the Kark review, we are ensuring that what matters most to staff feeds into the management and leadership development agenda, and shapes organisational culture.  

We will continue to work together to make sure ‘we each have a voice that counts’ and deliver actions at a local, regional and national level.  

This year, all organisations with over 200 bank-only workers will be offering those workers the opportunity to participate in the NHS Staff Survey. They will have their own tailored questions, aligned to both the People Promise and the main survey to capture their distinct experiences and provide us with invaluable insight.  

In addition, for the first time this year many of our general practice (GP) teams have the opportunity to complete the NHS Staff Survey. There has been a longstanding ambition for the voice of people working in primary care to be heard in the same way as our secondary care colleagues.  

Half of all Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) have opted in this year, so we will have a large sample size of general practices for the first time. If you work in primary care, I hope you will take this opportunity to share the survey with your teams and colleagues so we can hear about and learn from their experiences. 

The NHS Staff Survey is a vital part of our work to continually improve staff experience and patient care. There is unmistakable evidence of a correlation between the NHS Staff Survey questions which relate to the five domains of the Improving Patient Care Together (IMPACT) approach, showing the strongest performing organisations (as measured by the Single Oversight Framework) have strongest staff engagement.   

It will take your staff around 15 minutes to complete the survey but the data and insights will be a goldmine that will support our work for a whole year. It also provides reliable data to track long-term trends in employee sentiment and will be uses to inform local and national strategy in line with the Long Term Workforce Plan.

In short, the NHS Staff Survey really matters, so please do encourage your teams to complete it and your workforce leaders to share it far and wide within your organisation. Every staff voice matters, and as ever we look forward to hearing what our NHS colleagues have to say.