Kindness in the NHS Workforce: Addressing internal challenges

While it is an undeniable truth that NHS workers have faced hostility from patients and family members due to stretched and understaffed units of care, it is equally crucial to acknowledge that unkindness can also manifest within the workforce itself.  We all need to learn to demonstrate more kindness to each other.

Impact on emotional wellbeing

The accumulated stress resulting from the pandemic and other challenges has placed a heavy burden on individual healthcare professionals. They not only deal with the demands of their work but also grapple with health, social, or mental health issues outside of their professional lives. Consequently, even minor workplace tensions can have a significant impact on their mood and temperament, affecting their interactions with colleagues and the overall work environment.

This phenomenon is not an isolated incident; in fact, it is a common scenario among our course attendees, with some openly admitting that the tension caused by unkind statements or behaviours from their own team members has impacted on their confidence and emotional wellbeing.

Financial impact

Moreover, this issue extends beyond mere work effectiveness, with financial implications tied to toxic culture within the NHS. Studies have shown that bullying and harassment of staff costs taxpayers £2.2 billion annually in terms of staff health, sickness, and absence (1). Alarming statistics indicate that it would cost the taxpayer an average of £231.9 million if every staff member who experienced bullying and harassment left the NHS, as it costs on average £30k to replace a lost employee (2). A ‘Paying the Price’ report showed that 49% of healthcare employees who have experienced bullying, harassment, discrimination, or sexual misconduct are looking to leave their jobs as soon as they can find something better (3).

Freedom to speak

Notably, initiatives such as the ‘freedom to speak up’ programme have been launched to combat this issue (4). Numerous organisations have set up Guardians to give people someone to speak to about their concerns easily. Other external organisations, such as Culture Shift with their ‘report and support’ scheme, aim to create a different environment within the NHS by supporting NHS freedom-to-speak guardians and employees in calling out unkind and unprofessional behaviour.

While these programmes are institutionally helpful for paving the way to a more inclusive and empathetic workplace culture, we also recognise that there are strategies that can be used on an individual level when having those difficult conversations and calling out unkind behaviours. We discuss these in depth in our advanced communication skills courses when challenging workplace scenarios arise. Some staff who have role-played a challenge with a colleague have described the experience as liberating and empowering. Our strategy can provide some relief and pave the way for constructive conversations.

In our training

In our training sessions, we delve into various strategies and techniques to foster a culture of kindness and improve communication within healthcare teams. We strive to create a supportive and compassionate working environment for all NHS professionals through a positive shift towards better communication.

We can work with organisations to arrange delivery of advanced communication skills courses within your teams or we offer courses for individuals to apply for and attend.

If you are an individual, wanted to enhance your communication skills our next available course is on the 11th & 12th October 2023.  Please register via our website page, but do feel free to contact us, we would love to have you join us!

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