The NHS touches all of our lives at times of basic human need, when care and compassion are what matter most. At the very heart of this compassion is our fantastic workforce. Made up of a rich community of professions, experiences and backgrounds, our people truly are our most precious asset.
But many are exhausted, having worked under extraordinary pressure for a sustained period. Winter demands, overlaid with elective recovery and the ongoing response to COVID-19, mean that supporting our colleagues to stay well – and stay in the NHS – is more vital than ever.
The NHS People Plan and Our People Promise set out the steps we must take to achieve this, providing a framework we can use to attract and keep people while maintaining high quality care for patients and communities.
While the pandemic placed demands on staff that are still being felt, it also highlighted our many strengths. One such strength is the care we see NHS colleagues giving one another in teams. As senior leaders, it’s imperative that we ensure this is truly embedded in the culture of our organisations too. We know that giving staff the backing they need, and prioritising health and wellbeing leads to better outcomes, so we must continue to value, empower and support our colleagues throughout their careers so they’re happy, healthy and able to make changes which suit their individual ambitions, life events and skills.
Our future is also one where respecting and harnessing feedback and insight at all levels is the norm. This report contains heartening and encouraging examples of how trusts are doing exactly that, building on a period of intense learning and innovation when we saw levels of collaboration, flexibility and agility that had previously seemed hugely aspirational.
Having a voice that counts is a key element of our NHS People Promise, which keeps us focused on what we need to do to make the NHS the best place to work. And as we've now refreshed the annual staff survey to align it with the Promise’s seven elements, we can judge our progress year by year.
A chief executive of an NHS trust and integrated care system said something that resonated strongly with me recently: "We all need to be restless for improvement and humble enough to know that we haven’t got everything right."
I know that our shared goal is to attract people who want to join our NHS, support people to remain and develop in our NHS, and of course, facilitate high quality care for patients and local communities. I see and recognise the huge efforts that have been in service of this, with this report highlighting just some of the many innovations being made across the country. I thank you for your support and leadership at this most crucial of junctures.