Forward Healthcare Awards 2021 finalists: four fresh takes on workforce and staff engagement

The Forward Healthcare Awards 2021, in association with CCube Solutions, give the team here at Leading Healthcare – and our panel of expert judges – the chance to acknowledge all the great work taking place in the world of health.

The awards week begins on 6 September 2021, and marks the start of seven days spent showcasing innovations, ideas, partnerships, pilots and more. We’ll announce the finalists and the winners and celebrate those that took part through a series of features, videos, and digital content.

As always, we begin our awards season by taking a closer look at our ‘featured finalists’. First up, we focus on the category of ‘Workforce and Staff Engagement Initiatives of Year’.

During the past 18 months, the healthcare workforce has been under pressure like never before, so this topical and important area platforms some of the best people-focused initiatives that organisations have created to promote and support staff wellbeing…

East London NHS Foundation TrustOnline Learning Activities Programme for the Children of ELFT Parents

We start by traveling to East London NHS FT (ELFT), which saw a number of teams collaborating to create the ‘Learning Activities Programme’ for members of staff who had children that were learning from home, due to the third COVID-19 lockdown in the UK.

According to the trust, a “recurrent theme” voiced by staff during the pandemic was “their struggle with working from home while home schooling.”

To support colleagues with this, staff across the trust – from People and Culture, the Temporary Staffing Booking and People Participation teams, through to Internal Communications and Marketing, the Functional Skills Coordinator and more – co-developed the programme, which was hosted online. 

“Which borough our staff lived in determined the quality of provision on offer from their schools,” said the trust, with those with children of primary school age generally having less home schooling on offer, which made “work life far more difficult”. 

The trust engaged three teachers before extending to five, as the timetable of digital activities expanded, and it also went on to develop activities to support secondary school aged children in English, maths and science as well. The organisation and its new teachers designed a range of learning activities and a weekly timetable covering Key Stage 1 to Key Stage 4, intended to supplement but not replace the school curriculum. Sessions were interactive and ‘live’, delivered via Zoom, while safeguarding precautions such as registers, recording of teaching, and NHS email booking were also put in place. 

ELFT found that the programme, which went from inception to booking in just two weeks and was available to all staff, had parents from professional groups in all areas of the trust, and their children, taking part. Total participation across all activities over a seven-week period clocked up at more than 1,500 children. 

Quality Trusted Solutions (QTS)“We care, we can, we do”: Putting people at the heart of the business

Next up is Quality Trusted Solutions (QTS), a company which specialises in estates advice and services, was formed in April 2018 from the Estates and Facilities department of Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust (CNWL).

After the COVID-19 pandemic forced a “rethink” about staff engagement, regarding pressure, wellbeing, purpose and belonging, QTS sought to address a range of challenges – including staff turnover and retention.

Having already launched a partnership pre-pandemic – with the company Hatching Ideas – to tackle these topics, QTS continued to develop its “programme of change”. Hatching Ideas had held 1:1 interviews with almost two thirds of staff to “make sure they could feed into the process”, “contribute to decisions” and “be heard”.

Objectives identified included: developing a vision and purpose that empowered staff; instilling the values and behaviours that reflected the culture QTS wanted to foster; providing staff with the skills, capabilities and tools that they need to be successful.

The QTS purpose: “We Care. We Can. We Do.”, values, and transformation plan was developed, followed by a re-focus on ensuring staff were able to cope with “phenomenal levels of pressure” as QTS was responsible for continuing to provide a ‘business as usual’ estates and facilities service, while also responding to the need for COVID-safe practices to support NHS operations.

The following initiatives were put in place:

  • Reviewing organisation structure and workload for managing people remotely
  • Modifying policies and procedures to support ‘quick decisions and agile working’
  • Changing recruitment practices to include ‘value-based questions’
  • Setting up working groups with representatives from every service, to help people to contribute and develop
  • Overhauling the process for allocating the training budget and incentivising staff to develop and gain skills
  • Introducing “Touching Base” surveys to give employees space to confidentially share their feelings and make suggestions
  • Providing mandatory workshops on resilience and wellbeing every single staff member.

As a result of these initiatives, QTS reports no staff turnover since the start of the year, with bank staff reduced by 80 per cent and permanent vacancies by 78 per cent. The company also says there is “greater diversity and inclusion” in the recruitment and on-boarding processes.

‘Fake’ work commutes, buddy systems and regular breaks were said to be promote a healthier life balance and 96 per cent of staff told QTS they had adopted one of the wellbeing strategies from the training sessions. Other initiatives include encouraging staff to take annual leave, capping virtual meetings at 50 minutes and out of hours delays on emails.

Royal College of Nursing – education strategy

The Royal College of Nursing’s submission focuses on the launch of an education strategy which aims to “provide leadership and influence across the UK health and social care workforce”, by supporting education, learning and development.   

The strategy sets out to help all nursing staff “achieve their learning and career goals” via a new education portal and other tools. Through this, members can access career advice, guidance, events and content on a variety of topics. 

The plan also explores the importance of different styles of education – from face-to-face teaching to blended, online, and practice-based learning – and sets out goals to expand the existing accreditation and credentialing schemes. 

Nichola Ashby, RCN Head of Professional Learning and Development, said: “This strategy sets out how we intend to provide education, learning and development for members at every stage of their working lives and beyond, enabling progressive career support and learning to ensure each day is seen as a learning day for every member.”

Rachel Armitage, Managing Director of RCNi, added: “This collaboration puts our organisations at the front of nursing education for many years to come. 

“Today’s nursing staff and those who follow in the next decade will learn in radically different ways to their predecessors. The education we provide will have something for every nursing professional to advance their career and get on in nursing as the profession increasingly pushes new boundaries.”

Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership – online wellbeing toolkit

For our last – but certainly not least – featured finalist in the staff engagement section, we head to the North West where Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership (GM HSCP) has launched an online ‘wellbeing toolkit’ for its workforce.

Describing it as a resource which can ‘help support you to be your best’, the interactive toolkit was conceived and created as a response to the challenging nature of the COVID-19 pandemic – and is an “acknowledgement of the importance of staff wellbeing”.

The Partnership said that the kit brings together “all the great wellbeing initiatives and resources that are available in Greater Manchester in one place”. This includes advice on staying healthy ‘physically, practically and psychologically’, as well as focusing on how to support others, plus tips on seeking professional help. 

Guides on introducing a ‘Buddy Network’ within a team are also part of the offering, as well as advice on how to transition from work life to home life at the end of the day, and how to improve sleep quality and reduce stress.

The toolkit provides templates and is divided into three sections: looking after yourself, supporting others, and responding to need.

There were also six free-to-attend virtual sessions which served to introduce the initiative to the Partnership’s workforce.

To find out the winning submission from our four fantastic finalists when it has been announced, or to view more Forward Healthcare Awards content, visit our dedicated channel.