300,000 additional NHS staff are benefiting from health and wellbeing programmes

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29 / 1 / 2014 Midnight

major audit published today shows the NHS has significantly increased support for the health and wellbeing of its staff.

The report by the Royal College of Physicians, called ‘Implementing NICE public health guidance for the workplace’, says 115 trusts are supporting their 562,723 staff with organisation-wide plans or policies on health and wellbeing - up from 275,421 (70 trusts) in 2010.

It audited 178 trusts that together employ 73 per cent of the NHS workforce. The NHS Employers organisation, which supported the audit, says the findings indicate that over 300,000 staff are being covered by these policies across the whole of the NHS.

NHS staff have access to facilities like occupational health, cycle schemes and fast-track treatment for musculoskeletal problems. Clear guidance is distributed to help organisations attend to staff wellbeing, while helping managers to be approachable, discrete and effective in resolving concerns.

The audit also shows significant increases in dedicated policies that cover specific health areas, and stability in all others. The key areas are:

  • Obesity plans have more than doubled, from 13 per cent in 2010 to 28 per cent 
  • Physical activity plans have increased from 24 to 44 per cent 
  • Mental wellbeing has increased from 48 to 57 per cent 
  • Smoking is stable at 75 per cent 
  • Long-term sickness absence continues to be 100 per cent

Dean Royles, chief executive of NHS Employers, is speaking at the RCP’s launch event today and says:

“The NHS has maintained an important and responsible focus on the wellbeing of its workforce, amid all the other challenges faced by staff and managers.

“At least 300,000 more staff are covered by comprehensive policies compared to three years ago and sick-leave has fallen over the same period among nurses and other major staff groups. We all recognise that healthy, well supported staff are happier in their roles and can give better care, so it’s crucial that these programmes are in place.

"There can be no doubt that the wellbeing of NHS staff and their engagement with their employers has increased. But we still need across-the board improvements to capitalise on the momentum that's building around wellbeing and to create more projects in areas like obesity, smoking and alcohol like our NHS Dry January campaign.

"Of greatest importance are those schemes that provide early interventions, support networks and different ways for staff to take responsibility for their wellbeing and report any concerns in confidence.

"As with so many things in the NHS, it's clear that a culture of confidence and openness is essential and that everyone has a part to play in developing this. People who are given the confidence to speak up about their worries and stresses are more likely to highlight issues that could affect their performance or patient care, and we need this to happen."

The review by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh (2013) of 14 trusts with high levels of patient mortality found they had high levels of sickness absence, particularly among their doctors (12/14 trusts) and nurses (9/14 trusts). Dedicated reviews into staff health and wellbeing by Professor Dame Carol Black (2008), Dr Steve Boorman (2009) and Professor Sir Michael Marmot (2010) all made compelling cases for the association between healthy staff and their ability to do their job well.

Notes to Editors

The audit is supported by the NHS Employers organisation and undertaken by the Royal College of Physicians and the Faculty of Occupational Medicine. It is the second round of the research, with the first taking place in 2010.

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