Serco Cares

By - World Healthcare Journal

Serco Cares

The impact of the non clinical workforce on patient experience enables patients to recover more quickly.

Most patients, due to their limited time in hospitals, don’t know how to evaluate good clinical service so they rely on their evaluation of their customer service experience. Our focus is the people delivering those services and the impact they can have.

Serco’s research shows that of the 1.2m people working in the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), 590,000 of them work in non-clinical services, so nearly 50 per cent and that, by-and-large, this body of sta don’t feel valued. A major focus on this area of work has been overly commercial and focused on efficiency and cost-cutting. This is also reflected in the way that these services are outsourced and delivered by the majority of service providers.

Serco’s interest and experience is in the services which support and enable the delivery of excellent clinical services and patient care. Serco enables clinical staff to focus on prioritising the best clinical care to the patient, while we take care of the other areas of hospital operations that support the patient in having the best service. Some of these include processing and validation of insurance and appointment booking and scheduling, patient movements, cleanliness and food.

These services, when performed well, contribute towards an efficient operating environment that can help relieve the stresses of patients, the clinicians who care for them, and hospital management who want their hospital to be the best it can be. Creating a calm and efficient environment “that works” has a major effect on how a patient perceives service delivery quality.

We believe there is something more our sta can do to impact a patient’s experience and well-being, beyond delivering excellent services.

Serco Cares Research

Serco launched some internal research through Experience Lab, Serco’s customer experience design organisation, which has since been validated by
the University of Oxford Said Business School. This research began with a literature review to identify findings from existing worldwide hospital research.

We identified three areas:

1. “It has been clinically proven that a positive mental attitude helps a patient recover more quickly. ”

2. “A lack of social interaction is as damaging to patients’ well-being as obesity. ”

3. “Pressure on clinicians has reduced the time they can spend with patients, causing them unhappiness and stress. ”

We then launched in-hospital research to determine the most important influences in cultivating a positive mental attitude. This research was carried out in six hospitals, interviewing staff, clinicians, patients and visitors, with many hours of observation, shadowing front-line sta and assisting them in their duties.

There were three key insights:

  1. We identified six key influences for a positive mental attitude in patients to be: A sense of retaining some control over their life, regular social interaction no matter how brief, regular distractions from their condition, responsive and engaging sta interactions, feeling part of the wider ward community, being able to discuss their progress with anyone.

  2. The most staggering learning was that facilities management staff interact with patients nearly 3 times more often than clinical staff (14 times / day vs. 5 times / day)

  3. Throughout our research we observed instances of Serco staff already acting and interacting with patients and clinicians in a way that was kind, warm and positive and we have examples of them doing it without impacting operational efficiency.

The next challenge was to create an environment where all staff feel comfortable adopting such a positive approach.

Changing mindsets with emotional engagement

Changing mindsets could only happen if staff were not solely motivated to perform their operational tasks. To do this we looked to change the attitude of staff towards the role they play and understand the ‘power in their hands,’ taking them beyond seeing themselves as ‘just a cleaner’ to a mindset where ‘I can help people get better quicker. '

“We observed instances of Serco sta already acting and interacting with patients and clinicians in a way that was kind, warm and positive”

To achieve this, we upskilled our staff with so communication skills, training unusual for staff at this level:

  • Active listening
  • Confidence in social interactionAnalytical observation
  • Boundaries

It turned out that some of our staff were already doing this, so we sought to celebrate and recognise what they do, giving them confidence and pride through providing a platform to share experience and best practice.

Evaluation and validation of the Serco Cares programme with Professor Steve New:

We sought external evaluation and validation of the Serco Cares programme with the University of Oxford and Professor Steve New who has a special academic interest in operational and process efficiency and has worked extensively in healthcare.

We asked him to provide some validation to the process and go on the Serco Cares journey, which he did so, in two of our hospitals. We are now working with him to develop a long-term academic research study to look at the impact of the way our sta fulfil their support roles in hospitals.

“Serco Cares is impressive because it really focused on human dignity and respect,” Professor New says. “It is about treating the workers and patients as human beings. It is not perfect but it is brilliant. It resonates with a strategy that puts process excellence, public service and human dignity at the heart of Serco’s business. It stands in stark contrast with a model of public service outsourcing which is about outwitting clients and squeezing the workforce. ”

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