Staff experience improves in Northumberland hospitals - despite strains on services

The experience of staff in Northumberland’s hospitals has improved over the past year, despite rising and unprecedented demand on the NHS.

Tuesday, 4th February 2020, 4:45 pm
NHS logo.
NHS logo.

A report to a board meeting of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust revealed that the December staff survey had resulted in better scores in all eight topic areas compared to 12 months ago.

The 2019 survey, which received 3,500 responses – around 800 more than in 2018, saw improved scores for 33 of the 36 questions, with the other three being the same as the previous December.

The trust’s director of patient experience, Annie Laverty, told board members that there had been ‘statistically significant gains in three core domains – equality and diversity, staff engagement, and psychological safety’, however, there is work still to do on ‘the quality and content of appraisals, and the number of staff experiencing violence and aggression at work’.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s chief executive, Sir James Mackey.

Plus, the bottom-scoring question in the survey was ‘I often feel overloaded at work’.

In terms of performance, Northumbria Healthcare, which runs hospitals and community services in Northumberland and North Tyneside, hit all but one of its targets during December, including cancer and other referral to treatment times.

The one that was missed was the 95% target for seeing emergency department patients within four hours.

However, the trust’s 92.7% was still an admirable performance in the context of the overall NHS A&E waiting times being the worst on record – with the England average being 79.8%. Nationally, 2,347 patients waited more than 12 hours during the month.

Reflecting on the picture as a whole earlier in the meeting, the trust’s chief executive, Sir James Mackey, reported that it had been a ‘very, very strong performance’, during the pre-Christmas period, ‘when we just started feeling the pressure of winter’.

“We maintained really strong patient and staff performance throughout that process,” he said, before thanking staff and the leadership team for all their efforts.

However, he added that there were ‘tensions as well’: “It was too hard for a while and we are acting on that. We are focusing on sustainability and resilience to get through tough times.”