The NHS is facing its worst winter for 30 years due to underfunding and poor staff morale, according to a report published by Northampton General Hospital.
The concern was raised in a Maintaining Quality Over Winter Report published by the hospital.
More demand and less money are the story of Austerity Britain, but low morale and its effects have been less talked about.
Deborah Needham, chief operating officer at NGH, says: “There are a number of reasons for low morale in the workplace and it is difficult to show causation.
“Regardless of the reason, it can affect productivity, increase errors, increase sickness absence and affect joint working between teams and departments.”
The hospital is addressing the issue with a range of measures.
Recognising that contented teams have capable bosses, leadership training is a key priority for hospital managers.
Welcoming ideas from everyone, whatever their rank, is another measure to engender job satisfaction.
But the smaller, everyday ideas are just as important as grand strategy.
Mrs Needham says: “We aim to reward our staff through the little things that matter, such as informally saying ‘thank you’ when staff go above and beyond the call of duty to provide a great service to patients and keep them safe.”
Having a bottomless pot of money or a few thousand less patients are simple ideas that would solve the perpetual NHS hospitals crisis.
But the subtle arts of praise and motivation could be a secret weapon to fight of the coming winter storms.
No matter how bad it gets, the staff will be there dealing with it so preparing them well could be the most crucial plan of all.
Mrs Needham said: “During what is likely to be a difficult winter for most hospitals, we need to ensure that we continue to provide the quality of care our patients expect.”