An inquiry into the status of NHS staff who work in non-clinical roles has suggested that they are often considered ‘second-class’ citizens within the system.
A joint investigation conducted by the Health Service Journal and Serco found that work which is conducted by approximately 500,000 NHS workers is persistently undervalued.
The Maximising the Contribution of NHS Non-Clinical Staff study concluded that such work is too often hidden, and that this ultimately results in a divisive hierarchy.
Not only does this impact negatively on the staff working in these roles, it could also have a detrimental influence over patients.
NHS staff working in areas such as IT, facilities and estates should instead be encouraged by the hierarchy of the NHS, according to the report.
In particular, non-executive directors should champion the work of these members of NHS staff at board level.
HR departments and unions can also play a role in ensuring that the voice of these less prestigious members of the NHS workforce are taken as seriously as those who are often, wrongly, more esteemed.
Too often such non-clinical staff can feel that their voices are not being heard, and organisations such as unions can help reverse this trend.
The enquiry also suggested that the culture of the NHS, and even the performance of the health service, could be improved by maximising the motivation among these non-clinical staff.
There can be benefits in understanding the roles of such workers more cohesively, which would have a positive impact over the patient experience.
It was also noted by the inquiry that non-clinical staff are often poorly paid, and that this is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.
The input of these individuals is often vital to the functioning of NHS services, and thus the gulf between importance and remuneration should be addressed.
HSJ and Serco also concluded that the role of non-clinical staff in implementing the Carter review recommendations and sustainability and transformation plans must be recognised.
Participants in the inquiry included University Hospitals Birmingham and Heart of England Foundation Trust chief excutive Dame Julie Moore; Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Foundation Trust chief executive Andrew Foster; and National Voices chief executive Jeremy Taylor.
One contributor suggested that many non-clinical staff feel undervalued in the NHS system.
“I’m an HR professional by background, and I’m always profoundly shocked by the lack of organisation and role design competence. If we really got to grip with that, it would transform thinking. We’re doing work around productivity, which will lead to growth investment in non-clinical staff. How much appraisal do these staff get? Not much, would be my bet”.