Find answers to some of the frequently asked questions about the NHS Staff Survey.
If you can’t find the answer you are looking for, or need further information, please contact us.
About the Survey
The NHS Staff Survey 2021 launched in July 2021. The fieldwork for the NHS Staff Survey 2021 is carried out between September and November 2021 with results published in early 2022.
You can find all the information about the survey on this website. This includes survey guidance and survey documents such as the questionnaire.
Once published, the questionnaire and other survey documents will be available to view on the survey documents page of this website.
The purpose of the NHS Staff Survey is to collect staff views about working in their NHS organisation. Data are used to improve local working conditions for staff, and ultimately to improve patient care. The survey is administered annually so staff views can be monitored over time. It also allows us to compare the experiences of staff in similar organisations, and to compare the experiences of staff in a particular organisation with the national picture.
To ensure all staff responses to the survey remain confidential, all participating organisations must employ an independent survey contractor to administer the survey. NHS staff complete and return their questionnaires directly to the independent contractor, which means that no one at your organisation will be able to see how an individual member of staff responds. Survey contractors will treat your completed questionnaires in strict confidence, according to the UK General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018.
In many organisations, the independent survey contractors also conduct the sampling, questionnaire distribution and presentation of findings.
The NHS Staff Survey Approved Contractors Framework expired in June 2019 and has not been replaced. The following contractors ran the survey in 2020 and are offering to run the 2021 survey on behalf of participating organisations. We would therefore advise contacting them to discuss your requirements:
Quality Health: email@example.com or 01246 856263
Picker: firstname.lastname@example.org or 01865 208140
Taking part in the survey
All NHS trusts are required to participate in the NHS Staff Survey. Clinical Commissioning Groups, Commissioning Support Units, Social Enterprises and other NHS bodies may choose to undertake the NHS Staff Survey on a voluntary basis.
Only staff working at an organisation 1st September 2021 will be included in the survey, those joining afterwards are ineligible to participate. Eligibility for the survey is determined on 1st September 2021. A full list of the criteria for determining eligibility are outlined in the survey guidance available on the Survey Documents page.
Organisations are strongly recommended to survey all of their eligible staff (a census approach) in order to give all staff a voice.
Bank staff are currently ineligible to participate in the survey. This is due to practical concerns. Frequently, bank staff will work in various different organisations across a twelve month period which makes assigning their responses to a single organisation difficult. Additionally, some bank staff work in more than one department or position, so this presents additional challenges in assigning their responses to a specific part of an organisation.
We continue to investigate how best to hear the voice of bank staff who are currently not able to take part in the survey. We will be working with trusts over the coming months to pilot an approach that will allow bank staff the opportunity to take part in the survey in the future. In addition, we also recommend the use of alternative listening tools such as the National Quarterly Pulse Survey that are currently available for Bank staff.
Yes, staff on maternity or paternity leave should be included in the survey.
Please answer the questions in relation to the job you are currently working in.
Please answer the questions as best you can in relation to your current job with this organisation. However, if your organisation is new as a result of a recent merger, and you were employed by one of the previously separate organisations, please answer the questions in relation to your time spent working at this new organisation and its predecessors.
So long as you have been on sickness leave for less than one year you are welcome to respond to the survey and are encouraged to give your views if you feel well enough to do so. However, participation in the survey is not compulsory.
Research has shown that giving staff the opportunity to complete their questionnaires in the workplace during work time can boost response rates. It is the responsibility of the organisation’s management to inform employees whether or not this is acceptable. Any organisation running an online or mixed-mode survey must allow staff time during work hours to complete the survey.
This date will vary between organisations. We recommend that questionnaires are distributed to staff in the week commencing 20th September 2021 and they must be distributed no later than 4th October 2021 in order to adhere to the mandatory minimum fieldwork period. You should contact the survey lead in your organisation if you wish to confirm the exact date.
Yes. In order to improve access to the survey, from 2021 all staff will be offered the option to complete the survey online. For those receiving a paper questionnaire, a link to the online survey with a personalised login and QR code will be provided so that staff can immediately access and complete the survey online if they would like to.
Whilst we do not recommend providing translations of the NHS Staff Survey, we strongly recommend that organisations support all staff, including those who may struggle with written English or for whom English is not their first language, to complete the survey in order to give every member of staff the equal opportunity to have their voice heard. For example, organisations may have champions or volunteers available to help staff to understand and answer the questions, and line managers are encouraged to ensure that those who may need more time to answer the survey are given the time they need within their allocated working hours.
All organisations are required to have a mandatory minimum fieldwork period of eight weeks.
However, it is strongly recommended that a longer fieldwork period is used, to increase response rates, representativeness and comparability. Any organisations that believe they may struggle to meet the mandatory minimum fieldwork period should contact the Coordination Centre as soon as possible.
Confidentiality and data protection
Participation in the survey is not compulsory, but staff are strongly encouraged to use the opportunity to give their opinions and views about the organisation in which they work by completing the questionnaire.
It is important that as many staff members as possible complete the questionnaire. The higher the survey response rate, the more confident we can be that the survey findings are representative of the views of staff at the organisation as a whole.
Yes. You will post/submit your completed questionnaire directly to the independent survey contractor appointed by your organisation. Your organisation does not have access to the questionnaires or to any linked personal data (e.g. names and addresses). The report that is sent back to the organisation presents the survey findings in summary form, and does not reveal the identity of the staff sampled. To help preserve anonymity, the Coordination Centre will not provide feedback on any group from which there are 10 or fewer responses.
Survey contractors use the personalised login / ID numbers to ensure that reminder emails or letter are only sent to staff who have not already completed the survey.
As staff return/submit their completed questionnaires directly to an external survey contractor, there is no way that anyone in an NHS trust/organisation will be able to link data with a particular ID number or individual. Organisations will only receive reports of the summary survey findings. If a paper questionnaire is returned with the ID number obscured or removed, data cannot be included in the survey findings as, without the ID number, it is not possible to assign data to the correct NHS trust/organisation.
All data submitted through the survey are confidential. Since NHS organisations use an external survey contractor to administer the survey, and all surveys are returned directly to that external contractor, no one in your organisation will be able to link your responses to you.
Results will only be reported to organisations in summary form and in such a way that it will be impossible to identify an individual’s responses.
The written comments which you provide within your survey response will be passed to your organisation, and NHS England and NHS Improvement, as outlined in the disclaimer on the questionnaire. Please consider this before including any identifying information in your written comments. Comments will always be anonymised before they are made publicly available.
The surveys are collated by the survey contractors and the response data are sent to the Staff Survey Coordination Centre. The Coordination Centre are then able to provide organisations with data to compare their performance with other organisations of a similar type and also produce national statistics for NHS England and NHS Improvement.
The data are stored in accordance with the UK GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018 and following the principles of the NHS Confidentiality Code of Practice. Completed questionnaires are returned directly to an independent survey contractor. The data from each questionnaire are then entered into an Excel spreadsheet by the contractor and held in password-protected files. These data are only accessible to a small number of data analysts responsible for inputting the data.
After the survey is completed, these data files are sent to the Coordination Centre where they are collated and stored in secure files only accessible to the researchers conducting data analysis. The information does not include details of the names of staff who completed the survey.
Survey contractors will store paper copies of the completed questionnaires until February 2022 when the Coordination Centre conducts data checks. Once this process is complete, the contractors securely dispose of the paper copies of the questionnaires.
The legal basis for processing personal data for staff survey purposes is “for the performance of a task carried out in the public interest or in the exercise of official authority vested in the controller” (Article 6(1)(e)).
Organisations undertaking the NHS Staff Survey as part of the NHS Standard Contract are therefore ‘exercising official authority’ in doing so.
The benchmark reports for each participating organisation can be found in the local results section of this website.
In Spring 2022 the Coordination Centre will provide each organisation with reports of core survey responses appropriately benchmarked against national data. Some organisations may wish to commission an earlier organisation-level report from their survey contractors in order to work with results internally, for example in developing action plans.
Please note that the benchmark reports produced by the Coordination Centre are benchmarked against other organisations of a similar type – accordingly, in order to make fair comparisons between organisations in the benchmark reports, the data from each organisation will be weighted so that the occupational group profile of that organisation reflects that of a typical organisation of its type. This means that it is possible that results given in the benchmark reports produced by the Coordination Centre could differ slightly from those given in any reports produced by survey contractors.
The directorate reports we produce are based on the directorate data that an organisation’s contractor submits to us. If a contractor does not provide us with directorate information, this explains why the report is not available. If you are unable to find a report for your organisation but think that this information should be there, it is worth speaking with your contractor as they would be in a better position to explain this to you.
This could be for two main reasons. Firstly, where a group has less than 11 responses, results are suppressed in order to protect staff confidentiality, therefore it is not possible to show this data. The second reason why certain directorates may be missing is because this information has not been provided to us by the contractor. Directorate groups are agreed earlier on between the organisation and their contractor and then the contractor sends us this data to add to our reporting. You would need to get in touch with your contractor regarding the categories that were agreed.
The data in the full and summary reports are weighted based on the current year staff profile. The main reason that this is done is to allow for fair comparisons to the benchmark scores. The data in the directorate reports, on the other hand, does not weight the data as there is not any benchmark comparison so this would explain for the discrepancy across those reports. More information on weighting can be found in the technical document available in the survey documents section of this website.
You can find detail on how the theme scores are calculated in the technical document – see section 3. The scores are calculated using case level data so it’s not possible for you to do the calculation and get exactly the same values because the data that are published are aggregated.
Rounding is one factor that can impact why figures that look the same to 1 decimal place (dp) may be significant while those that look different to 1dp are sometimes not significant. Each score is rounded to 1dp which means that figures can appear more similar or more different than they actually are.
For example, a change in change from 8.3 to 8.1 does not necessarily represent a change of 0.2. Due to rounding the difference may actually be:
8.349 to 8.051 (a difference of 0.298)
8.251 to 8.149 (a difference of 0.102)
The statistical test applied uses the actual, rather than the rounded results. The test also takes into account the sample size (larger sample sizes are more likely to result in changes being statistically significant) and the actual values (a 0.1 movement on a very high or low score is more significant than a similar movement on a mid-range score).
The results of the significance testing are provided as a guide to help data users see where there may have been ‘real’ changes in the scores year on year, and where changes are too small to be statistically significant. But we always advise that these tests are used for guidance only and that actions are based on the comparison with benchmark scores, the longer-term trends, and the context in which the survey took place.
We do not produce an output of this nature as we advise against grouping all organisations in the same way to find the overall top and bottom. Instead, we categorise the results into benchmark groups in order for organisations to see how they compare to similar organisations, and we would always advise comparing results in this way.
You can download the dataset which feeds into the benchmark reports from the local results section of this website. The data is in Excel format and shows the results for each organisation grouped into the different benchmark groups, so you can see who is performing best and worst on the different questions and themes.
The detailed spreadsheets which show unweighted data for each organisation can be found in the local results section of this website.
Key findings are no longer being produced as they have been replaced with themes.
Averages are measures of “central tendency”. There are several measures of that tendency that can be used such as mean, median and mode.
On the national dashboards, the average used is the (arithmetic) mean of all respondents within a particular organisation type (with weighting). The mean of all the responses of all people within acute trusts is taken to create the score for the acute trusts. This score is comparable between organisation types – i.e. the acute trust score is directly comparable to the score for community trusts on the national dashboards.
In the benchmark reports, we calculate the arithmetic mean of all respondents within a particular organisation – the organisation’s score (with weighting). The median in the benchmark reports is then the median of those organisational arithmetic means. The median is the appropriate measure here, as it allows organisations within an organisation type to compare themselves to each other, and accounts for outliers (extremely low or high scores) as exactly 50% of the values are above and below the median, whereas a mean score can be skewed by those outliers.
If you want to compare acute trusts with other types of organisation, the national dashboards are preferred (mean), whereas if you are wanting to compare an organisation to other organisations of the same type the benchmark values (medians) are preferred.