Members of the HCSA will be very familiar with the principles of evidence based health care. Evidence and research underpins professional and clinical practise. So it won’t be a surprise to recognise that good HR practise (that is basically good people management) is underpinned by evidence and research.
This is particularly the case in terms of human resources in healthcare. In fact there is a plethora of enlightening evidence that shows, in particular that good HR and good people management leads to improved patient outcomes, and in particular improved patient mortality in acute care.
This sounds obvious – if people feel they are managed well, that their work is rewarded and, in effect individual employees feel valued and supported, then fewer patients die, and more patients get better care.
This perspective has been reinforced over my career in senior HR work in the NHS, and previously as a full time official representing health and care staff in the UK. I was reminded of the importance of this research on joining the HCSA team only recently. The challenges and problems facing senior clinicians working in the front line of the NHS would be eased if the working environment was improved.
The impact of work related stress, financial pressures, workload pressures, poor levels of engagement and difficult work relationships – these are all elements of our work that can be eased and helped if employers took action to change cultures and improve our working lives.
One of the leading academics in this area of HR research is Professor Michael West, whose work at Aston University and now at the University of Lancaster has highlighted some of the lessons for employers in the NHS. Professor West and his team reviewed (over a number of years) the data produced by the annual staff surveys*. Researchers also compared this data to other NHS metrics, including patient surveys, patient mortality data and other research and came up with some interesting conclusions.
In particular, the research points to two areas in particular – effective team working and appraisal.
What the evidence shows:
- Improvement in appraisal associated with a reduction of 12.3% of the number of deaths after hip fracture
- 25% more staff working in teams associated with 275 fewer deaths per 100,000 following emergency surgery or 7.1% of the total number of deaths following emergency surgery
Professor West and his team describe staff working in teams and pseudo teams (that is they think it’s a team but its not really functioning as a team):
- Teams as opposed to pseudo teams
- Data from employees themselves
- A 10% increase in “real” teams is associated with a 3.1% drop in patient mortality
- In an average hospital, this is over 40 deaths per year
The diagram below is my own personal suggested picture of the impact of effective people management and staff engagement, this is just a brief summary of fairly extensive research and work around this very important area.
Regional Officer HCSA, Chartered Fellow CIPD MSc HRM
*West et al,2001 International Journal of HRM
*West, Guthrie, Dawson, 2006 Journal of Organisational Behaviour