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Hospital patients experience better outcomes when NHS staff are happier in their jobs, according to new research.

A longitudinal study comparing NHS staff surveys with other measures between 2009 and 2012 found a 'clear' link between staff satisfaction and organisational performance.

The study, funded by the NIHR and led by the Health Services Management Centre at the University of Birmingham in conjunction with Sheffield University Management School, compared factors including staff satisfaction, 'intermediate' outcomes such as rates of absenteeism and staff turnover, and 'final' outcomes such as hospital mortality rates, infection rates, regulator ratings and patient satisfaction.

Professor Martin Powell, Professor of Health and Social Policy at the Health Services Management Centre, University of Birmingham, said: 'Overall, there was a clear pattern that better staff experiences are associated with better outcomes for employees and patients. In particular, negative experiences such as aggression, discrimination or perceiving unequal opportunities were harmful to staff, as well as increasing absence and being linked to lower patient satisfaction. Several positive staff experiences, reflecting the quality of jobs and positive attitudes about organisations, were associated with higher patient satisfaction and lower absenteeism."

The strongest correlation found in the data was between negative staff experiences and higher rates of absenteeism, with evidence that this relationship is causal. The research also identified relationships between staff satisfaction and patient satisfaction, and staff absenteeism and patient mortality.

Professor Powell added: 'What we have found is that if we have to go to hospital, it's probably better to go into a hospital where the staff are happy - we might have suspected that, but now we have data to back it up.'

Professor Martin Powell was interviewed by presenter, Dr Mark Porter for BBC R4 Inside Health, on a piece on staff morale in the NHS. Please listen to the interview here -


For more information, or to arrange an interview with Professor Powell, please contact Stuart Gillespie in the University of Birmingham press office on +44 (0)121 414 9041. Out of hours, please call +44 (0)7789 921165.

  • View the paper 'Staff satisfaction and organisational performance: evidence from a longitudinal secondary analysis of the NHS staff survey and outcome data'
  • The University of Birmingham was named The Times and The Sunday Times University of the Year 2013/14.
  • The National Institute for Health Research Health Services and Delivery Research (NIHR HS&DR) Programme was established to fund a broad range of research. It builds on the strengths and contributions of two NIHR research programmes: the Health Services Research (HSR) programme and the Service Delivery and Organisation (SDO) programme, which merged in January 2012. The programme aims to produce rigorous and relevant evidence on the quality, access and organisation of health services, including costs and outcomes. The programme will enhance the strategic focus on research that matters to the NHS. The HS&DR Programmeis funded by the NIHR with specific contributions from the CSO in Scotland, NISCHR in Wales and the HSC R&D Division, Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland. 
  • The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded by the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy, and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research. The NIHR plays a key role in the Government’s strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world. For further information, visit the NIHR website.
  • This article presents independent research funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health.