NHS staff in England want to keep remote working

Written by PublicTechnology Staff on 2 June 2021 in News
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Healthcare workers tell survey that remote consultations benefit some but not all patients

Credit: Yui Mok/PA Archive/PA Images

Many healthcare professionals in England are keen to continue working remotely although some have reservations, according to recently-published comments made as part of last autumn’s NHS Staff Survey.

A majority of the 5,140 staff who mentioned remote working in response to a question on what could be learnt from the pandemic were positive about its use, with most of the rest neutral, according to an automated analysis of answers. Some said it helped to maintain and improve patient care, supported more flexible working arrangements and improved productivity.

“Working remotely has allowed us to be more responsive to what patients actually want in terms of frequency of therapy,” wrote one respondent. “Remote patient consultations give me an opportunity to see patients in their own homes and I feel that this often adds more useful information,” added another.

However, others complained about a rushed shift to remote working, lack of access to paper records, isolation and technical problems. “IT issues seem to be ongoing while working remotely. Maybe a more robust system, to handle the amount of remote worker activity, could be achieved for the future,” wrote one.

Others expressed doubts about holding appointments online: “There are some client groups where it just isn't appropriate to do reviews/assessments over digital,” wrote one, mentioning children with learning difficulties as an example.

The annual NHS Staff Survey consists mostly of quantitative questions, but the 2020 edition carried out in October and November included two which participants could answer in their own words. These asked what lessons should be learnt from their experiences of working through the Covid-19 pandemic and what worked well and should be continued.

Healthcare research charity Picker, whose staff survey coordination centre runs the research for NHS England and NHS Improvement, used an automated text analysis tool to categorise almost 700,000 responses to the two questions and assess their sentiments. As well as publishing a national summary, it has produced organisation-level data for individual NHS trusts.

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