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Domestics no longer feel like 'Invisible Ghosts' at Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health FT

Wed 29th January, 2014
Domestics no longer feel like 'Invisible Ghosts' at Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health FT

There is a story about a time when John F Kennedy visited NASA unannounced, and he came across several cleaners. He asked each one what their job role was and received a stock answer from all but one who replied: “I am helping to put a man on the moon”.

In every team there are members who perform the ‘hidden’ roles, and without their valuable input the team would not be able to achieve their mission. Hospital domestic staff and housekeepers are an example of this, performing the unsung roles which are vital to providing quality care, ensuring patient safety and creating a good patient experience. Given that these outcomes matter so much and that domestic teams see things every day that we may miss, shouldn’t we ensure they have a voice too?

Yet these staff are often marginalised, their voices are not heard, and their opinions are not sought. Whilst other colleagues are developed and included in decision making, domestic staff can remain excluded, feeling undervalued, disempowered and demoralised.

At Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust, they have made a concerted effort to engage domestics through LiA – including them in departmental conversations, but also supporting them as an LiA Pioneer Team in their own right. At the start of this work, one member of the domestic team said he felt like an 'invisible ghost' who people didn’t talk to and wouldn’t think to hold a door open for. Others felt they were largely ignored as they performed their jobs. But when LiA was launched and their team got involved, things started to change.

Coumar Marimouttou, LiA Lead at the Trust takes up the story:

“Through LiA, we attempted to empower this vital segment of our workforce by setting up the Domestic Team at our Barberry Centre as one of our pioneer teams. The team’s LiA events were attended by our Trust Chair so that she could interact directly with domestic assistants and listen to their concerns. We empowered the team to have a meaningful conversation with senior managers and other key people. All of their concerns and ideas were discussed in detail. Even though managers were shocked to hear their concerns, they were ready to address the issues raised. ‘Employee of the month’ was introduced to recognise the team’s hard work. Monthly LiA meetings started to happen at the site attended by frontline domestic staff and management to discuss any issues. Monthly team meetings have now also been introduced to pick up issues and opportunities at the earliest possible time. One example is that staff were previously not allowed to take breaks. Now they are.

Carl, a domestic assistant, referred to LiA as ‘empowering’ and said this is ‘the future for a healthcare workforce’.

John Short, Chief Executive at the Trust says:

“LiA is a key way of working we need in our Trust to turn the management triangle on its head and recognise that staff at the frontline of care are the ones who interact most with our patients, carers and visitors. As such, they have perhaps the most important role in our Trust in improving the patient experience, one of the cornerstones of quality. Listening to each other and taking action to improve our services is essential to our Trust’s development, with the aim being that all our staff are engaged with and leading improvements in patient care. There should be no 'invisible ghosts' amongst our staff!”.


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Rachel Mhaka

Sun 2nd March, 2014. 1:40AM

True indeed for that high quality care to be achieved there is real need for individual and collective responsibilty to aim for continuous improvement. This comes with every individual being empowered to do so and have the 'permission' to make changes for better outcomes of patients care, staff that feel proud and energised to work at BSMHFT and the Trust with excellent reputation. Those poor and unhelpful attitudes of making any staff feel like a ghost are surely being erradicated by LIA principles.

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