At the heart of any workforce lies the bedrock of trust. This is an indispensable and fundamental element crucial in fostering a working culture that is safe, engaging and productive. This holds especially true within the NHS, encompassing both the public it serves and its dedicated workforce. Delving into the intricate realm of voicing concerns, it is necessary to cast our focus on a sector of the NHS workforce that perhaps remains overshadowed, an aspect deserving recognition. 

These unsung heroes are the temporary workers and in focus are specifically those choosing sole employment as bank only workers. These colleagues whose pivotal contributions support the very functioning of our NHS, are a diverse staff group holding abundant talent, skill, expertise, and insight.  

They continue to be a vital resource and one that must be recognised and valued in us meeting our NHS People Promise. In some NHS trusts, bank only numbers may be small in comparison to the wider substantive workforce, however as a collective, this is in the region of 150,000 people across the NHS, with the numbers predicted to grow.  

Research and best practice recommendations all suggest to the absolute importance of speaking up, and why it is key to positive practice and good patient outcomes.  

What I do want you to hold on to, is how we engage, value and above all build trust with our bank workforce.  The views of bank colleagues matter and they should be able to work without fear of losing work opportunities or being treated inequitably if they raise concerns.    

At a national scale the foundations to build insights into bank experience have been laid with the introduction of an adapted version of the NHS Staff Survey for bank only workers. Trust Participation was optional in 2022, but this year it is mandated for trusts with over 200 bank only workers. With this year’s National NHS Bank Survey now live, if you are an eligible bank worker, I hope you have a say. If you are not, I encourage you to promote and support this work where you can. 

In addition, it was welcomed that findings from the 2022 bank only worker survey featured in the National Guardians Office report  Fear and Futility which recognised that there is still more to be done to build confidence in speaking up across our workforce. 

The enthusiasm from leadership to highlight the bank voice is evident through the participation of over 140 trusts in 2022 for this non-mandated endeavour. Nonetheless, the national completion rates stood at 18%. While this offers an overview, it also raises the issue of whether there is a lack of confidence among bank workers to participate in the survey in recognition of the significance of their contribution and voice.  Do bank workers feel genuinely valued? Do they believe their experiences truly matter?  

The NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) data reveals a troubling truth: ethnic minority staff in the NHS often have a more negative work experience than their white colleagues. This issue may become further compounded when we consider the high number of ethnic minority bank workers in the NHS. The WRES is now delving into the intersection of ethnicity and gender among bank workers, exploring new bank WRES indicators, like feeling safe to voice concerns. 

For bank only workers, who may already feel unrecognised, this trust gap can widen further. For example, contrasting the 2022 NHS staff survey results for both bank workers and NHS staff, it is evident that bank only workers and particularly those from ethnic minorities, face higher levels of bullying, harassment, physical violence, and discrimination from patients or the public. These negative experiences erode trust and discourage speaking up. Often creating a disconnect between individuals and the organisation in which they work. 

To continue to help bridge this gap and build trust, it is essential to step into the world of bank workers and be engaging, inclusive and present. While this personal journey inward may be challenging, your genuine listening can make a meaningful difference that is felt. This in turn brings internal confidence and that important feeling of safety to speak up about concerns. 

It is the right for everyone working in the NHS to speak up about anything that negatively impacts patient care and worker wellbeing. This right can only be confidently exercised when there is trust. It is absolutely vital that everyone working in the NHS feels they can raise concerns and that these concerns are acted on.