SNP accused of attempting to '˜silence' NHS staff over survey

The views of frontline NHS workers will not be made public for at least two years after the Scottish Government confirmed the existing staff survey format has been scrapped.

The last staff questionnaire for 2016 were supposed to be published in December. Picture: PA
The last staff questionnaire for 2016 were supposed to be published in December. Picture: PA

Results of the last staff questionnaire for 2016 were supposed to be published in December but no information regarding how beleaguered NHS staff feel about their working environment will be made available until January 2018 at the earliest.

The last staff survey published in December 2015 found that 46 per cent of the 60,681 workers who took part said they were unable to do their jobs properly because they were overworked.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Last night opposition parties reacted with fury to the news, with Labour health spokesperson Anas Sarwar accusing the Scottish Government of trying to “silence” NHS staff.

The Scottish Government cited a low response rate of 38 per cent as a factor in the decision to bring in a new “iMatter” system to replace the existing survey format. ­However, the staff governance section of the NHS Scotland website states that the 2015 staff survey had the “highest participation rate of the survey since its inception” in 
2002. The NHS England staff survey results for 2016 were published on 7 March with around a third of the workforce taking part – the largest response rate in the survey’s 14-year history.

Mr Sarwar said: “This is nothing more than a nationalist government trying to hide their own record on the NHS.

“A decade of SNP mismanagement has created a staffing crisis in our NHS – and now the nationalists are trying to silence staff. Under the SNP our NHS staff are overworked and undervalued.

“Our NHS staff are the foundations that our most valued public service is built on – if the doctors and nurses are telling us they aren’t getting the support they need we should listen.”

He added: “It is completely unacceptable that the experiences of NHS staff, and the pressure they are under, will not be disclosed by the government for at least two years. What does the SNP government have to hide other than their own record of failure when it comes to supporting staff?”

The Scottish Government confirmed that ‘iMatter’ is currently being rolled out throughout NHS Scotland and information will be published for the first time in early 2018.

It is described on the NHS Scotland website as ‘A staff experience continuous improvement tool designed with staff in NHSScotland to help individuals, teams and Health Boards understand and improve staff experience.’

It carries the management slogan ‘Better Staff Experience Supports Better Patient Experience’.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Measuring staff experience is essential and we greatly value the feedback our NHS staff provide. Their views can also lead to better patient care. Unfortunately, previous NHS Scotland staff surveys had very low response rates, with only 38 per cent of staff responding to the last survey in 2015, meaning that a large proportion of staff were not participating.

“In order to increase participation rates, and in partnership with the trade unions, a new system ‘iMatter’ has been implemented which has been designed by NHS Scotland staff themselves. This new system provides a model for measuring staff experience in a way that’s meaningful to staff and allows for more effective action plans to be put in place to address any issues raised.

“iMatter has been hugely successful so far, and feedback indicates that initial levels of engagement have been considerably higher.”