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NHS: Staff Morale

Oral Answers to Questions — Health – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 22nd March 2016.

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Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Labour, Ealing Central and Acton 11:30 am, 22nd March 2016

What recent assessment he has made of staff morale in the NHS.

Photo of Ben Gummer Ben Gummer The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

The Department assesses staff morale in the NHS using engagement scores from the annual NHS staff survey. I am delighted to say that the engagement score currently runs at 3.78 out of 5, which is a rise from the position in 2012, when the survey began, when it was at 3.68.

Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Labour, Ealing Central and Acton

On top of the junior doctors debacle, the staff survey shows that midwives are stressed, with 90% of them working extra shifts unnecessarily. I have raised before the case of the radiographer Sharmila Chowdhury, who was sacked for exposing bribes at Ealing hospital, but is yet to get a practical response, other than the words, “Francis review”, which is yet to be implemented. When will the Government get a grip on plummeting morale in the NHS?

Photo of Ben Gummer Ben Gummer The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

The hon. Lady asked a number of questions. On the specific issue about this particular member of staff, I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has met her, and I would be happy to discuss this further. The hon. Lady is wrong about the Francis recommendations, which are being implemented in full. She should look at the balanced results from the staff survey, with more staff saying that their motivation at work is going up, with the number recommending their trust as a place of work and as a place to receive treatment going up, and with the number able to contribute to improvements at work also going up. There are issues in the staff survey that we would like to address—it is unfortunate to see reports of bullying and harassment going up—but we are addressing the problem through the staff partnership forum, which I chair. Overall, however, this is a balanced and positive return from the staff survey.

Photo of Andrew Bridgen Andrew Bridgen Chair, Regulatory Reform Committee

Will my hon. Friend confirm that, as well as the importance of staff morale, we should note that in hospitals where seven-day working has been implemented, patient morale is also improving considerably?

Photo of Ben Gummer Ben Gummer The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

My hon. Friend is right, and the returns from the friends and family tests across the country show increasing patient satisfaction with the NHS.

Photo of Liz McInnes Liz McInnes Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government)

How does the Minister think that staff morale is affected when people hear the Government’s constant refrain of “implementing seven-day working”, particularly pathology staff and others who have for decades provided a 24/7 service?

Photo of Ben Gummer Ben Gummer The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

Despite the best efforts of Labour Members, staff morale has gone up over the past few years. The situation is not helped when the nature of the junior doctors contract is misrepresented, as it constantly is by Labour Members. If they were to give a fair account of the contract to their constituents, I am sure we would see further improvements in staff morale in years to come.

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Conservative, Wealden

Staff morale at Uckfield community hospital is exceptionally high, partly due to it receiving 100% in a recent friends and family survey. Will the Minister join me in congratulating all the nurses, volunteers and front-office staff in Uckfield community hospital?

Photo of Ben Gummer Ben Gummer The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

I happily congratulate the staff at my hon. Friend’s local hospital. This shows where good constituency representation, reinforcing the efforts of local people working in local hospitals, can produce improvements in staff morale and therefore in the experience of patients, which is something from which Labour Members would do well to learn.

Photo of Barbara Keeley Barbara Keeley Shadow Minister (Health)

In a recent survey, 70% of GPs warned that their workloads were becoming unmanageable, and 55% said that the quality of the service they provided had deteriorated, with too few patients getting appointments, treatment and the range of services needed. We now hear reports of a large decrease in applications for GP training places, and this is one of the last cohorts to be fully trained by 2020. Unless the Minister takes urgent action to address these issues affecting GP morale, workload and recruitment, patient care will just get worse. What is he going to do about it?

Photo of Ben Gummer Ben Gummer The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

The hon. Lady raises the issue of GPs. We are ensuring that there will be 5,000 additional GPs by the end of this Parliament, which addresses precisely the issues that she raises.

Photo of Ben Gummer Ben Gummer The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

I do not know why the hon. Lady is shaking her head. She asked what I am doing, and 5,000 additional GPs will help to solve her problem. Secondly, we are putting a greater proportion of funding into general practice, in comparison with the proportion of the NHS budget as a whole, than any previous Government. Thirdly, we are increasing the number of GP training places. I am pleased to report that we are doing well in ensuring that more people in training positions are choosing to become general practitioners.