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Staff engagement app leads to service delivery improvements in central Bristol hospitals

2 May 2017

A staff engagement app developed by a team at University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust (UH Bristol) has led to improved staff engagement and service delivery at the trust’s central Bristol hospitals. NIHR CLAHRC West has evaluated the pilot and roll out of the Staff Participation Engagement and Communication application (SPEaC-app), also known as the Happy App.

SPEaC-app collects real-time, work-related mood feedback from UH Bristol staff. It collects data from staff about problems and frustrations, as well as positive experiences on their shift. Local managers, such as ward leaders or matrons, can access this information and address the issues it raises. They can share issues with senior managers so action can be taken quickly and effectively to prevent more serious problems.

The app was the brainchild of Anne Frampton, Consultant in Emergency Medicine, and Andrew Hollowood, Clinical Chair, both at UH Bristol, and was developed by software designer Christopher Smith-Clarke. NIHR CLAHRC West was research and evaluation partner on the project to develop and roll out the app across the trust.

The team evaluated the pilot and roll-out of the app through workshops, surveys and data analysis. Their findings have been published in a paper in BMJ Quality Improvement.

The app aimed to address staff engagement, which had been identified as an issue in the 2014 staff survey, where 74 per cent of staff at the trust didn’t feel that communication between staff and senior managers was good.

The pilot was from January to September 2015, in the Children’s Emergency Department and an adult in-patient surgical ward. By November 2016, the app was being used in 23 areas at the trust, accounting for around 10 per cent of staff. Between March 2015 and November 2016, more than 9,000 entries were made, which is an average of 15 entries per day across all areas.

As well as providing local intelligence about staff morale and mood, the app gives a ‘heat map’ across the hospital. This enables leaders and managers to identify hot spots of stress and allows frustrations to be addressed in real time.

Paula Clarke, UH Bristol’s Director of Strategy and Transformation, said:

“The Happy App is a perfect example of our approach to continuous learning. The support from the CLAHRC enabled us to robustly evaluate the impact and use the evidence to inform our decision to roll the Happy App out across the trust. Listening to and engaging with our staff is fundamental to embedding our culture of quality improvement and the Happy App is a simple and extremely effective way for us to do just that.

“As use and confidence in the app grows over time, we have seen that staff use it to make suggestions for change and local improvement. These are often fed back to the group to implement and so staff can see their own ideas being the basis for local change.

“We would like to thank the many teams at the trust who helped implement and roll out this tool, as well as our partnership with NIHR CLAHRC West who worked with us throughout the process to evaluate the impact on staff engagement.”

The team behind the app won the prestigious Health Service Journal (HSJ) Award for Staff Engagement in November 2016, and other NHS organisations are interested in using it.

The app was mentioned in University Hospital Bristol NHS Foundation Trust’s Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection in March 2017, where the trust was rated ‘outstanding’. CQC said:

“We saw an innovative method of engaging staff through the use of the ‘Happy App’ and proactive engagement with staff. We found because of this the culture of engagement had developed to be positive. Staff were proud to work at the hospital.”


Using real-time, anonymous staff feedback to improve staff experience and engagement‘: Anne Frampton, Fiona Fox, Andrew Hollowood, Kate Northstone, Ruta Margelyte, Stephanie Smith-Clarke, Sabi Redwood. Published in BMJ Quality Improvement

Staff engagement app leads to service delivery improvements in central Bristol hospitals
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