NHS secondment to HSBC – second blog post

Rhona Galt is on a six-month internship to a non-NHS industry sponsored by NHS Improvement and supported by The Whitehall & Industry Group. The internship is aimed at female leaders looking to develop their leadership style and effectiveness, preparing for executive director roles in the future. During her time on secondment, she is working at HSBC UK. This is the second in a series of blog posts in which Rhona plans to share her thoughts and insights to inspire discussion.

Blog #2

After posting my first blog I’ve had a surprising number of people at HSBC contact me to tell me about their own links to the public sector. Some people have previously worked in the NHS or civil service, and many have family working in healthcare. It has opened up a new network of people, and helped me process the culture shock of the last three months.   

Well-being works

When I arrived at HSBC I had an assumption that the NHS held a bit of a monopoly on compassion. As I spend more time working here I’ve been challenged to think about my own views on the role of banking in people’s lives. On a visit to Sheffield I spent time with the bank’s bereavement team who are specially trained to advise and support people managing the estate of a loved one. I had never considered this sort of department would exist within a bank, but then again why wouldn’t it? My time spent in local branches has exposed me to the reality that for many people, their main contact with a bank will be during a significant life event: home buying, a separation or dealing with financial difficulties may all lead to a conversation with your bank. Just watching the latest TV adverts from any high street bank shows how seriously the industry now takes the importance of customer’s well-being. But HSBC also takes the financial well-being of staff seriously, and this month alone I’m attending staff talks on how to manage my money, mortgage advice, and have a financial health check. Today I’m participating in a well-being webex and I’ve recently sampled a lunchtime mindfulness session. There is a strongly held view here that making sure your people are healthy directly results in better customer outcomes. 

Is the NHS Healthy?

One of the new acronyms I’ve started using here is SME: subject matter expert. When you start a project at HSBC you are expected to seek out the in-house expert for advice, whether it be on interest rates to digital banking. Thinking about some of the challenges I face back in my NHS role, staff health and well-being is one of the main and recurring themes. Working in the health service has considerable challenges – the hours can be long, and for many staff the work is both mentally and physically demanding, if not exhausting. In the hospital where I work, I can access staff counselling and physiotherapy advice, but much of this is already available to employees within any industry and then some, here within the bank I can access a same-day GP appointment, and our new offices will have an in-house gym. It would be unfair to say the NHS isn’t trying to address this issue, the NHS Workforce Health and Well-being Framework ( NHS Employers) sets out clear ways in which Trusts can improve the health and well-being of their workforce, focussing on interventions in mental health, MSK conditions and healthy lifestyles. I think these ideas are all excellent and have evidence from pilot sites to support them. However, I still think a lot of us see these ideas as gimmicks, and we aren’t fully embracing the link in improving our own health to benefits in patient experience. I think the NHS should literally become the healthiest service – and perhaps in doing this, we should take more of our own SME advice.    

Cheers Big Ears!

Aside from being an expert on finance or healthcare, something we can all do is say thank you to one another on a regular basis. One of the things I’ve liked the most at HSBC is how easy it is to say thank you to colleagues. On the intranet there is an e-card tool where you can send a quick ‘thank you’ to a teammate and a copy of it is posted on the intranet for all to see. On average 2,000 electronic ‘thank you’ cards are sent in HSBC a week. These cards live alongside a formal recognition points scheme and glitzy annual staff awards. If compassion really is one of the founding principles of the NHS saying thank you more is definitely something I’m going to try and do more of on my return.