Thursday, 3 January 2013

Report shows how NHS trusts are working to improve staff health

Report shows how NHS trusts are working to improve staff health: A study reveals how NHS trusts in England are promoting the wellbeing of employees – from Zumba classes to healthier food
The Staff Health Improvement Project report, which was released in November, reveals the steps taken by 22 NHS trusts in England to support staff health and wellbeing.

The report, published by the Health and Work Development Unit, a partnership between the Royal College of Physicians and the charity the Faculty of Occupational Medicine, also reveals how they have used the evidence-based workplace guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) to achieve this. Nice has issued guidance on how to reduce smoking and obesity, promote physical activity, support mental wellbeing and improve the management of long-term sickness absence in the workplace.
I became the lead for the project in early 2012. We interviewed a mix of acute and mental health trusts, large and small, urban and rural. My colleague Sarah Jones and I held in-depth interviews with the health and wellbeing (H&WB) board lead and implementer from each of the selected trusts. We captured a wealth of knowledge, experience and practice, all of which was recorded in the report.
Embedding staff H&WB into the values of an organisation was identified as crucial to the success of this work and some trusts had clearly articulated to staff the link to improved quality of patient care and experience. As one acute trust board lead, said: "We're in the healthcare business. If we can't get it right for staff there's not much hope for anybody."
• Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS foundation trust, for example, developed a contract co-signed by the staff member and employer. The contract includes a commitment to quality, respect, involvement, staff health and wellbeing, and teamwork. It details the behaviours staff can expect from the trust, and values and behaviours the trust can expect from its staff.
• Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS foundation trust embedded H&WB into its staff objective setting and personal development plans. It reports this and a whole range of other data to its board.
Chief executives and boards played a crucial role in stimulating and co-ordinating action from all trust departments. An effective board lead often set up a H&WB group to assess staff need, pull together a range of data and develop a staff H&WB strategy and action plan. It was seen as a great boost to the agenda when board members demonstrated their support and joined in with activities. The Walton Centre NHS foundation trust's chief executive joined in with the staff Zumba classes and this was seen as a "leveller" in the organisation. And in Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS foundation trust a senior clinician appeared on a poster as part of the Count Me In mental wellbeing survey for staff who had experienced problems.
The report details how trusts are assessing staff need and implementing the guidance for each of the five topic areas. For example:
• Setting up a broad range of physical activity options, including some designed to attract those who are less fit, for example, biking for beginners, pedometer challenges, dance and yoga.
• Creative work with canteens and on-site shops to offer staff healthier options and providing, or signposting, diet clubs.
• In addition to providing a range of mental wellbeing counselling and support, training for staff and managers on mental wellbeing, resilience and mediation, trusts often joined up their work across topics with initiatives such as annual health fairs, staff MOTs and establishing networks of staff health and wellbeing champions to provide information and help their colleagues find support.
The second phase of the project was to share the learning, through action planning workshops, with 40 trusts. These three-hour workshops involved key people in each trust. They heard how others had implemented this guidance, which inspired confidence and enthusiasm. The first of the three-month follow-up phone calls with trusts suggest there has been a surge of activity since the workshops.
Trusts that took part in this project were finding organisational change and economic constraints challenging and yet showed commitment and enthusiasm for improving staff health.
Jude Williams, lead for this project, is an independent consultant working for the Health and Work Development Unit. Guardian Professional. 

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