Case Study: The WWL Way – How One NHS Trust Used Employee Engagement to Improve Patients’ Lives!

Case Study: The WWL Way – How One NHS Trust Used Employee Engagement to Improve Patients’ Lives!

Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh (WWL) NHS trust share how they have reduced total serious harm cases by 86%, reduced staff sickness by 15% and moved from the bottom 20% to the top 10% in the national staff survey in just a few years.

Strategically the trust knew that employee engagement was critical to delivering their strategy and were determined to take an evidenced based approach to employee engagement. They wanted to ensure they were focusing on those behaviours that were vital to their strategy. A new system was created to deliver regular pulse surveys and enable leaders and managers to drill down, identify hot spots and develop reports.

The engagement team knew that the only way to impact the engagement across 4,500 people was if the teams opted in and drove the process themselves. To bring this about the WWL team introduced Pioneer Teams, an ‘opt-in’ development programme that teams could draw on to support their engagement programme. The programme includes a range of interventions from communication, coaching to running listening events and team building. The programme has been so successful that there is a waiting list to join!

The programme, titled the WWL Way, and the supporting survey system has proved so effective that it has been adopted by an additional 8 trusts.

Key Lessons from the WWL Way

  • Build the business case linking engagement to a key business metric and get ownership and support from the top.
  • Continuous improvement, data led, evidence based approach works for staff engagement
  • Act with energy, scale and momentum
  • Give staff tools and opportunities to take ownership of their own engagement. This is the key to making sustainable changes.
  • Tailored tools and approaches – one size does not fit all
  • Get staff to opt in and use social movement to grow organically.
  • Have a dedicated engagement resource that provides a neutral place for teams and managers to get support for driving engagement.
  • Work in partnership with teams, unions and executives.


Since 2007 Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Trust have been focused on employee engagement and service transformation projects. What they have achieved is remarkable and this is their story.

  • In the period 2007/8 to 2014/15 the Trust has reduced Total Serious Harm (TSH) cases by 86%* (*TSH includes deaths, MRSA, serious falls, and serious harm to patients)
  • In 2014 the Trust scored in the top 10% and this was sustained in 2015. In 2011 the Trust ranked in the bottom 20% in the acute sector for overall engagement in the national staff survey
  • Only Trust to achieve 95% A&E target for patients being seen within four hours in 2015/16
  • Reduced sickness rates by 15% (7000 sickness days in 2015/16)
  • Reduced percent of patients who felt they had not been treated with dignity and respect from nearly 1 in 4 in 2011 to 1 in 6 in 2015.
  • Reduced the percent of patients rating the service at less than 7/10 from 19% in 2011 to 14% in 2015.

Richard Haslam, Engage For Successs

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at

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