Every day NHS support staff work around the clock to dispense medicines, maintain vital equipment, order medical supplies, book appointments, pay bills, manage computer systems, clean, cook, do the laundry and oversee the day-to-day running of our NHS services. It is fair to say that without them, our NHS simply couldn’t function.
All NHS staff are essential
When people think of the NHS, they probably think of doctors, nurses and paramedics. But what about the rest of the NHS workforce who work behind the scenes and carry out hundreds of different roles every day to make sure that patients and their families get the best treatment possible?
We want to promote the message that all NHS staff, whatever their job, play an important role in delivering quality patient care in their own different ways.
Without cleaning staff wards wouldn’t be safe for patients and their families, without finance staff the bills wouldn’t get paid and without stores staff, essential healthcare supplies wouldn’t be delivered on time to the right wards.
The NHS couldn’t operate without admin staff who are responsible for booking patient appointments and dealing with patient records, it needs maintenance staff who make sure that hospital buildings are safe and in working order, and managers who work to ensure that everything runs smoothly.
We think it’s unfair that NHS support staff don’t always get the recognition that they deserve, and think it’s high time that people and politicians stood up and took notice of the valuable contribution that these staff make.
Support staff are often the first to be cut
Support staff in the NHS have already suffered disproportionately as a result of public sector funding cuts, and it is no secret that they continue to be subjected to cost-saving drives in the NHS. During this parliament, the conservatives have already pledged to make £1.5 billion worth of savings per year by ‘making the best of new technologies and cutting administration costs’.
Historically support staff have been the first to be targeted for redundancy, downbanding and recruitment freezes. In fact, most cuts have affected infrastructure support staff, with a growing number of services being shared or centralised. This is something which may become more evident as a result of the NHS Five Year Forward View which aims to deliver new, integrated models of care.
“You always hear how the clinicians are important to the NHS, but the backbone of the NHS are those who make their jobs easier and keep it running, for example secretarial and admin staff who are the forgotten workforce.”
Support staff constantly face the threat of being outsourced
A growing number of NHS support functions such as finance, I.T and cleaning are being outsourced to private sector companies such as Capita, Serco and Sodexo. This often leaves staff on lower grades, more vulnerable to attacks on their terms and conditions. In addition to this, support staff are increasingly asked to work zero hour’s contracts and face the constant threat of restructuring.
Support staff aren’t recognised for the value they bring to the NHS
A survey of support staff revealed that 72% believed that the public did not understand the role that they played in patient care. In addition to this, the government’s drive to make seven day services more widespread in the NHS assumes that doctors and clinical staff work in isolation, and fails to recognise the need for a greater number of support staff to assist service delivery.
Today, the role of support staff is more important than ever and research suggests that more and more support staff are being asked to take on additional responsibilities. For example, members of staff are being redeployed to roles which require greater interaction with patients such as emergency call centres.
Support staff enable patient care
It is important to remember that not all patient care is direct. For example, support staff often perform functions and fill in the gaps which frees up time for clinicians, allowing them to focus on patient care.
Managers in the NHS are under constant attack
Managers are an essential part of the healthcare team, but they are often misrepresented as unnecessary, too numerous and unaccountable. But evidence shows this is far from the case. For example, a study conducted by the Kings Fund notes that the percentage of managers in the NHS seems to be about one-third of the level found across the UK economy.
“I think support staff are always forgotten about. When you hear politicians and the public mentioning the NHS it is always doctors and nurses, but there is more to it than that. There are domestic staff, as well as porters and admin staff who never really get a mention but play an important part and on low pay.”
“You always hear how the clinicians are important to the NHS, but the backbone of the NHS are those who make their jobs easier and keep it running, for example secretarial and admin staff who are the forgotten workforce”.