Enable more NHS organisations to become mutuals

Enable more NHS organisations to become mutuals

An independent review for the government has concluded that more NHS organisations should be encouraged to become staff-led mutuals.

The review, led by Chris Ham, found compelling evidence that NHS organisations with high levels of staff engagement – where staff are strongly committed to their work and involved in decision-making – deliver better quality care:

  • NHS organisations with high levels of staff engagement report lower mortality rates and better patient experience.
  • High levels of staff engagement result in lower sickness absence and less staff turnover.
  • Organisations with low levels of staff engagement are more likely to provide poor quality care – the failures in care at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust being one high profile example of this.

While staff engagement levels have increased across the NHS in recent years, the review found significant variations between organisations. It calls on all NHS organisations to make staff engagement a key priority in order to improve care at a time of unprecedented financial and service pressures.

As a result of the evidence found, the review recommends greater freedom for NHS organisations – including hospitals – to become mutuals, on a voluntary basis.

It calls on the government to launch a programme of pathfinders to enable further evidence to be gathered about the benefits of mutuals and whether they could be adopted on a larger scale across the NHS.

Chris Ham, Chair of the review, said: ‘The evidence that more engaged staff deliver higher quality care is compelling – a simple truth that should be acted on by all NHS organisations. Increasing staff engagement is first and foremost the responsibility of NHS leaders, from the board to the ward.

“But it is also time to give serious consideration to the role staff-led mutuals could play in increasing staff engagement and delivering benefits to patients. This should be accompanied by more proportionate regulation so that NHS organisations can look out to their patients, staff and stakeholders, rather than up to national bodies.’