Two years ago, following the merger of three disengaged NHS Trusts, Barts Health became the largest NHS Trust in the country, serving a population of 2.5 million. Committed to providing excellent healthcare and to ending the historic health inequalities in east London, the Barts Health Executives knew they had a difficult task to stabilise the workforce and raise standards to the level of the best. Following a recent Care Quality Commission inspection, highlighting low morale across the workforce, Barts Health selected SpeakInConfidence to enable anonymous two-way dialogue between all employees and the executive team.
With 6 hospitals and 14,000 employees, direct communication with the 15 members of the executive team is challenging. “Prior to the merger, many employees were used to the executives being on hand within the local hospital – if they had a concern or an idea, they could simply walk down the corridor and knock on the door. Following the merger, the old executive corridors were empty and the executives absent, many now located in Whitechapel. “Many found this transition difficult, both executives and employees, and the CQC report demonstrated the disconnect that had been created”, explains Michael Pantlin, HR Director. “Despite having many upward and downward methods of communication available, such as staff surveys and regular staff sessions, it became clear that we were not always hearing the truth. Changes to the Trust and staffing, as a result of the merger, had been unsettling for employees and although they wanted to speak out, ask questions and raise concerns, we needed to offer them a new communication platform.”
SpeakInConfidence allows two-way anonymous dialogue between any Barts Health employee and members of the executive team. “It was clear that staff felt freer to talk to CQC. Providing an independent, anonymous means of communication resulted in a cathartic release of concerns”, said Pantlin. “We wanted to be able to provide that to employees on an ongoing basis, in a way that executives could respond directly and continue the dialogue, whilst the employee remained anonymous, if required.”
Executives of Barts Health are determined to learn from Mid Staffs and to ensure that employees feel able to raise concerns without any fear of reprisals from executives, managers or peers. “Barts Health has other anonymous reporting methods, such as Whistleblowing hotlines. However, they do not provide a dialogue and concerns have often reached ‘fever pitch’ by the time an employee considers this option. We want to hear whenever they have a concern, idea or question and also to be able to provide a response”, continues Pantlin.
Any solution needed to accommodate working across 6 hospitals and the fact that many employees, for example nurses, do not spend much of their time on computers whilst at work. “Barts Health is keen to have something that can be used anywhere – access from outside the hospitals was critical. SpeakInConfidence offered an intuitive, easy, friendly, online solution and our executive team were instantly keen to be involved”, said Pantlin.
9 executives and 2 non-executives have opted to participate in SpeakInConfidence and all are committed to ensuring the employees have the very best experience possible. “It is important that our employees feel they now have a voice and that the executive team are fully prepared to respond. In the two weeks prior to go-live, we ran initiation sessions with the executive team and responses to possible questions”, said Pantlin. Many nurses do not have time on computers whilst at work and Barts were keen to have something that could be used anywhere, with access from outside the hospital.. The service has been promoted by posters across the 6 hospitals and initial uptake has been promising.
“This initiative is a direct response to feedback from employees and Barts Health hopes this will help it move towards an improved culture, where employees and executives can create a better environment to work in and be cared for in East London”, concluded Pantlin.