The NHS Staff Survey, carried out every year to improve employees’ working conditions, is being extended to those working in general practice for the very first time, NHS England has announced.
The workforce survey, one of the largest in the world, will be open for national participation to general practices from October. Currently, it is used in hospitals and on a voluntary basis in other NHS organisations, such as ICBS and social enterprises.
In a Primary Care Bulletin sent at the end of last month, NHS England said: ‘Implementing the staff survey in general practice will produce standardised, comparable, actionable staff experience data’.
The survey is being rolled out to surgery staff following five successful pilots that sought to test the methodology of the NHS Staff Survey in general practice. The decision to extend its use was taken in response to the NHS Long-Term Workforce Plan that commits to encouraging all NHS organisations to have staff feedback processes in place to ensure their opinion can be listened to and acted upon.
The data from the survey is expected to be used to support and inform recruitment and retention at a local and national level. Separate results will be available for general practice staff and will be reported at national, ICB and local levels.
Participating ICBs will be coordinating the survey at general practice level and will be encouraged to give individuals the opportunity to have their say.
It’s expected that they will be contacting GP practices this month to let them know about the opportunity to participate. The survey fieldwork commences in October to align with the NHS Staff Survey and results will be available in Spring 2024.
NHS England said it is currently conducting an engagement exercise to ensure all ICBs are aware of the benefits of taking part in the survey, before it collates the final numbers involved.
However, practice managers have raised concerns about the survey being used for general practice and whether it will actually lead to improved outcomes.
Teresa Graham, business partner at Second Street Surgery and practice manager at Oxford Terrace and Rawlings Road Medical Group, both in Gateshead, said: ‘The worry is that we would compare general practice with hospitals and trusts. I don’t think conditions are great anywhere in the NHS, but in general practice there are lots of limitations.’
She explained that because practices are not funded in the same way as trusts, it makes it more difficult for them to act on any concerns or issues raised by staff.
For example, she said: ‘I imagine issues that will come out of the survey will be related to pay and working in overcrowded buildings, but how will we fix that? Our hands are tied. We don’t get funding to offer salary uplifts.
‘We always try to provide the uplift to salaries but our bills have gone up and we’re feeling the pressure. For the first time we’re thinking, can we do it?
Ms Graham went on to say: ‘It’s great to hear feedback but you need to act on it otherwise staff think it’s a meaningless exercise.’
Mike Neville, managing partner in North Manchester and North West England representative for the Institute of General Practice Management, described the launch of the survey in general practice as ‘micromanagement’.
He added: ‘Most well-led practices will have their own internal processes already in place regarding their staff, and proof of this will now be visible with the workforce and wellbeing QI domain in QOF.
‘If the NHSE tool is given to practices to help them demonstrate this, then I don’t think anyone would turn their nose up at any help when presented.
‘But my concern in NHSE’s statement is the use of the word ‘comparable’. Who is being compared with who? And why? NHSE is not the end employer, so why would they need this data? It would be an example of the micromanagement of practices that general practice has neither asked for, nor does it need.’
A version of this article was first published by Pulse’s sister title Management in Practice