Promoting partnership working in the NHS

Collaborative approach to improve staff health and wellbeing to enable delivery of high quality care - St Mary's Hospital, Manchester University FT and Royal College of Midwives.

The organisation

St Mary’s Maternity Unit is part of one of the largest acute trusts in the UK, Central Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust. The unit provides full maternity care for women including counselling, antenatal care, delivery and postnatal care.

The challenge

Staff reported feeling overworked and stressed, with increasing pressure and demands causing them to feel undervalued and unable to provide high quality care. This was reflected in the results of the RCM membership survey with only 21 per cent of respondents saying they take their entitled breaks most or all of the time, while 42 per cent of respondents reported that they feel their professionalism is judged negatively if they take breaks. It was clear that change was needed to engage staff and improve wellbeing.

The aim

To nurture a compassionate and supportive workplace culture that cares for and values midwives and maternity support staff so they can care for women and their families.

The process

The RCM regional officer and head of midwifery at St Mary’s met to discuss planned initiatives to improve staff wellbeing. The RCM’s caring for you campaign encourages trade union representatives and employers to work in partnership to develop a supportive and positive workplace environment, where staff can access health and wellbeing services and flexible working opportunities. St Mary’s what matters to me project was designed to promote an honest and open culture where staff  feel safe to raise concerns and where all staff follow the trust values and behaviours framework. Both the RCM regional officer and head of midwifery agreed that it would be beneficial to work in partnership to jointly launch the initiatives and promote shared aims and values.

Structured breaks were introduced and improvements made to break rooms. A take a break campaign was planned by the RCM workplace representative, including placing visual reminders to encourage staff members to consider their own wellbeing as well as their patients. Events were arranged to celebrate good practice and improvements, including appreciation of the work of the administration and clerical team. The trust also participated in maternity support worker week and day of the midwife to further encourage staff engagement and boost morale.

The outcome

Engagement events were well evaluated and staff reported feeling improved job satisfaction and work/life balance. Staff now have a better understanding of capacity issues and are enabled to work collaboratively to plan service delivery, benefiting both themselves and patients. The trust report that reduced staff sickness and improved staff retention has also helped ease pressure on other staff.

Top tips

  • Work in partnership to promote shared aims and values. 
  • Organise events which recognise and reward staff in all roles to boost morale.
  • Prioritise staff health and wellbeing by introducing awareness campaigns and utilising flexible working opportunites.

Further information

Lesley.Wood@rcm.org.uk