Deloitte finds ambulance staff felt 'voiceless and disempowered'

02 August 2018 4 min. read
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The organisation behind NHS ambulance services in the East of England has been found to host high levels of disaffection among its staff, with many employees telling researchers at Big Four firm Deloitte that they felt “voiceless or disempowered”. In response, the Chairperson of the East of England Ambulance Trust has said the organisation is determined to address the “us and them” culture highlighted by Deloitte’s paper.

A report into East of England Ambulance Trust (EEAST) by professional services giant Deloitte has found that the organisation’s leadership was “cohesive” and “professional”. However, staff engagement is shockingly low, suggesting major improvements can be made to improve the standards provided by EEAST. The review, which cost EEAST a reported £50,000, was ordered to see whether the trust’s leadership was good enough to deliver “high quality, sustainable care”.

EEAST is the authority responsible for providing National Health Service (NHS) ambulance services in the counties of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, in the East of England region. During the compilation of their dossier, researchers from Deloitte discovered that while “the trust board has all the necessary foundations in place to become a high performing board and well governed trust”, there was a need for an overhaul in the trust’s approach to workplace communication. The report then alluded to high levels of disaffection among staff across the organisation.

Deloitte finds ambulance staff felt ‘voiceless and disempowered’

Further to this, the Big Four consultants found that some staff described an “us and them culture”, with the needs of staff often seen as conflicting to the will of senior leadership. This is unlikely to have been helped by the communication of decisions and new changes in the workplace, which apparently does not always reach every aspect of the organisation. As a result, Deloitte found that regional teams expressed feeling isolated from the wider organisation, while staff often noted feeling “voiceless and disempowered”.

The comprehensive review by Deloitte – recently named by the NHS as one of a group of 107 management consulting firms to assist the institution’s complex strategic, organsiation and transformational changes over the next five years – included interviews, focus groups and surveys, which were accompanied by desk research and the observing of key meetings. It also took in the opinions of internal and external stakeholders from across the organisation and across the region, alongside nearly 1,000 staff who participated in the engagement process.

During a troubled winter, which saw overcrowded hospitals come under major strain, EEAST came under mounting pressure, and it was suggested at the time that leadership had not prepared adequately. However, beyond the matter of engagement and communication, Deloitte also found that the trust was generally moving in the right direction, noting that cultural change takes many years.

Commenting on the production of Deloitte’s document, EEAST Chairperson Sarah Boulton said, “This has been an extremely worthwhile exercise, and the report and its findings will inform our future strategies and plans to provide an excellent service… We are pleased that the independent report confirms that the leadership and governance at EEAST is well placed to meet the challenges facing the trust.”

Boulton also noted that the organisation was keen to improve on the matter of staff engagement. She added, “We acknowledge that there are substantial challenges to be addressed and that the board needs to clearly focus on these challenges. Particularly we want to address as a matter of urgency the dissatisfaction among staff highlighted in the report.”

Related: Just 15% of employees are engaged. The rest lose $7 trillion in productivity.