In October 2014 Frimley Park NHS Foundation Trust acquired Heatherwood and Wexham NHS Foundation Trust. Frimley Park had been recognised by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) as the first ‘outstanding’ organisation in September 2014, whilst Heatherwood and Wexham Park at the time of acquisition were in special measures having been found ‘inadequate’ by CQC in May 2014.
The acquisition represented the first successful acquisition of one Foundation Trust by another, and created some challenging organisation development imperatives in terms of staff engagement and culture.
The newly formed Frimley Health Trust provides acute NHS hospital services for 900,000 people across Berkshire, Hampshire, Surrey and South Buckinghamshire. The organisation incorporates 9,000 staff across three main hospital sites at Frimley Park, Heatherwood and Wexham Park.
Frimley Park Hospital had national Staff Survey results dating back over a number of years consistently placing staff engagement in the top 20% of all NHS organisations. Conversely Wexham Park had staff survey results for staff engagement which were in the bottom 20% The CQC’s inspection report (May 2014) about Wexham Park Hospital concluded that ‘cultural and leadership weaknesses had led to poor care and patient experience and disengaged and disempowered staff’.
Addressing staff engagement was therefore seen as a priority both to establish a collective culture across the new organisation, and to improve patient safety and experience as well as staff motivation and satisfaction at Wexham Park. The effect on patient outcomes was underpinned by the work of Michael West (2012) which clearly demonstrated that patient safety, standards of care, and patient experience are positively impacted when staff engagement is maximized.
In June 2014, a cultural analysis of the hospital sites identified some key strengths at Wexham Park Hospital in relation to the dedication and commitment of staff and strong team working. However, it revealed weaknesses in terms of lack of a clear vision and values, ineffective leadership whom staff did not trust, silo working, poor staff engagement, pockets of bullying, low levels of recognition, ownership and accountability and low morale.
An OD and People Strategy was developed based on the principles of MacLeod and Clarke’s (2009) research that “staff engagement is driven by leadership, engaging managers, employee voice and an organisation which lives its values”.