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Support staff through Covid19

Monday, 27 July, 2020
Support staff through Covid19

While Covid19 has presented a huge challenge to the NHS and its workforce, Northumbria has been stepping up its determination to listen and support staff with a scheme that has seen more than 10,000 responses.


When the pandemic started the trust established Corona Voice a weekly survey of staff where anyone could raise issues, provide information, answer questions or just say how they were feeling at the time.


The system received 10,044 responses from staff in the first three months and gave senior managers a real-time way of resolving issues and supporting staff groups.


Corona Voice provided the organisations gold command with a weekly thermometer of staff morale but also informed decision making on some key issues. Each week the results would be published so that staff could see what was being said overall and get some feedback from senior management.


The data then enabled managers to track differences across the various sites the organisation runs and specifically adapt plans to address these needs.


The availability of PPE and staff wellbeing were identified as key staff concerns and as a response the organisation was able to set up a manufacturing unit to create protective clothing locally.


In response to staff requests a wide range of health and welling initiatives were also set up including chill out recovery zones for frontline staff, a dedicated website with wellbeing advice, free food for all employees and mental health support.


Sir James Mackey, Chief Executive of Northumbria Healthcare said: “Listening and understanding the views of our 11,000 staff was something that the organisation was determined to do, especially during such unprecedented times.


“Staff engagement is so important and stepping up our efforts during a global pandemic has really helped the organisation deliver during such a challenging period.


“Not only did it help us introduce some key initiatives to support the workforce, it also enabled us to measure morale on a rolling basis and spot signs of concern or anxiety.”


Another positive aspect of the survey has been the opportunity for staff to feel they have a voice and that their opinions are being listened to. Not only did this make staff feel valued, but it also helped them to express any negative feelings and reduce stress.


It also helped the organisation understand:

  • The impact of changes to working patterns and redeployment
  • How staff were adapting to the use of new equipment or apps
  • What extra equipment might be needed for homeworking
  • If key messages and national communications were hitting home
  • How worries and anxiety were impacting on staff and what could be done to help
  • The support needed for staff who are away from work shielding


Supporting staff and ensuring they can offer the best possible care has been a key driver in wider success in Northumberland and North Tyneside, with recent public satisfaction scores actually increasing to 94% during the pandemic.


As well as this results for Northumbria Healthcare from the Care Quality Commission’s adult inpatient survey 2019 were the highest in the North East and among the best in the country.


Holly Turner, who is 25 and lives in Morpeth, is a sister on the respiratory ward at Northumbria Healthcare Trust’s emergency hospital in Cramlington:


“The last few months have been really tough and very emotional. Seeing patients saying goodbye to their loved ones on an iPad broke my heart. Another thing the respiratory and critical care teams struggled with is how quickly patients can deteriorate. We do see that on our wards, but we saw it a lot more with Covid-19 patients. Luckily, I work as part of a fantastic team and we have really looked after each other.


“I have also felt really supported by the trust. I have never had to worry about access to PPE, which was a big weight off my mind, and all staff at the trust have had the opportunity to get an anti-body test. The trust constantly considered what it needed to do to look after us. Not having to worry about preparing food and having a free meal at work, really helped. In terms of emotional and mental support, I made use of our quiet zones in the hospital and access to phycological support really made a difference to how I coped. I really appreciate it.”


Annie Laverty, chief experience officer at Northumbria Healthcare said “Corona Voice was developed in partnership with colleagues from Open Lab at Newcastle University. It has had a real and tangible impact by offering an opportunity for staff recognition and for everyone to reflect and express their feelings. It’s been about giving people the chance to have a voice and be listened to; providing a source of reassurance and feedback; and creating a forum for genuine, two-way feedback.”


“Many of the responses emphasised the opportunity the Corona Voice surveys had provided to recognise staff throughout the Trust and this was greatly appreciated. Recognising colleagues and receiving positive comments for their own contribution has been motivating and a source of real pride.”