Article

Health and wellbeing champions

Guidance for health and wellbeing leads on what they need to do to introduce wellbeing champions as part of the NHS People Plan.

18 August 2021

The health and wellbeing of NHS staff is of great importance. Health and wellbeing affects every member of NHS staff, it is therefore vital that all our NHS people have access to talk to someone when they need to. Most of the time NHS staff are unaware of what they can access to support their wellbeing. Training staff to champion your organisations wellbeing offer, can have a significant impact on raising awareness of what is on offer and will help support and improve their wellbeing.

What is a wellbeing champion?

NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSEI) define health and wellbeing champions as: people at all levels of the NHS who promote, identify, and signpost ways to support the wellbeing of their colleagues.

A wellbeing champion is a member of your workforce who supports the wellbeing of staff within NHS organisations. Wellbeing champions know their work areas and colleagues, and are best placed to recognise what may work best in their team's environment. They can also signpost to resources and support that their organisation has in place.

Having wellbeing champions in your organisation will be extremely beneficial to your staff as well as supporting your organisation's wellbeing strategy and the national wellbeing agenda.

Many NHS organisations may already have similar roles already in place but may use different names such as; wellbeing allies, advocates, and officers. 

The role of a wellbeing champion

Champion roles may vary across organisations however, some roles and responsibilities may include:

  • acting as a role model for promoting positive health and wellbeing practice within your organisation, team and department  
  • linking in with the health and wellbeing leads or the person responsible for delivering the health and wellbeing strategy in the organisation
  • listen to colleagues when appropriate
  • signposting staff to the wellbeing support that is available to them
  • providing support to health and wellbeing leads
  • encouraging colleagues to take breaks and to look after themselves, for example: drinking plenty of fluids, lunchtime walks, taking up hobbies
  • making sure that colleagues are taking time to reflect and be aware of their physical and mental health.

Please note: Wellbeing champions are not expected to provide advice to colleagues. Wellbeing champions are there to listen and signpost colleagues to the services your organisation provides, including if they require mental health support.

  • A wellbeing champion can be anyone with a passion for health and wellbeing. They can be from across the organisation, in any role and at any grade. The ideal candidates must be members of staff who are driven to support the health and wellbeing of their colleagues.

    Wellbeing champions do not need to be from a clinical background, as this is a practical role to ensure the continued safety and health and wellbeing of our colleagues.

    It is important that candidates who are interested in becoming a wellbeing champion have a conversation with their line manager beforehand. This champion role requires the person to be available so support from their line manager is essential.

  • There are a number of ways that you can introduce wellbeing champions in your organisation through working with your HR, OD and health and wellbeing teams. You can do this by:

    • ensuring that you have a role description of what the champion is required to do
    • offering training to those who are interested in becoming a champion 
    • advertising the positions on your staff intranet, on posters around the trust, via social media, in wellbeing newsletters and communications bulletins
    • word of mouth
    • holding meetings with senior leaders so that they can filter this down to the line managers 
    • assuring those who are interested in applying that they will be provided with protected time to fulfil the role. Some members of staff may be put off applying if they feel that it will take up more of their time.
  • Introducing a new initiative into your organisation can sometimes feel challenging, however, there are many simple ways you can introduce the implementation of wellbeing champions successfully across your organisation.  

    • Creating posters outlining the role of a wellbeing champion, how they can support colleagues and where they can gain access to one.
    • Issuing wellbeing champions with different coloured lanyards, badges or velcro badges so that they are easy to find.  
    • Adding information onto the champions email signatures advising that they are a wellbeing champion and detailing how to get in touch with them.
    • Creating a web section on your intranet with information and pictures of who the wellbeing champions are in the organisation and how staff can find them.
    • Holding regular drop-in wellbeing champion meetings where colleagues can have a conversation.
    • Working closely with your wellbeing guardian to ensure that wellbeing champions is being discussed on board level.
  • Health and wellbeing leads within NHS organisations are there to support and guide wellbeing champions. Wellbeing leads should act as a point of call for champions and should escalate any issues the champions identify to board level so that they are aware of the issues and challenges that staff are facing.

    Wellbeing leads are there to support the champions, however, the champions should recognise that this role is for them to own and run it themselves. Wellbeing leads can support champions in a range of ways such as:

    • Ensuring that wellbeing champions are aware of what their role is and what they are required to do. This can be done by providing them with a role descriptor.
    • Providing champions with access to a specific inbox where champions can send their queries to.
    • Hosting group sessions and/or coffee mornings with wellbeing champions to ask how they are and to find out the current issues that frontline staff are facing.
    • Ensure that the wellbeing champions receive the relevant information for their roles such as access to relevant meetings and training.
  • NHSEI are working with stakeholders to develop a range of resources that will be made available for all NHS organisations to support their wellbeing champions.

    When appointed, wellbeing champions will gain access to an online community of practice network with other champions which they can use for support, checking in, sharing good practice and discussing any challenges.

    NHSEI will be publishing information on their website in due course with further information and access to training. 

  • Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust has recruited and trained 180 health and wellbeing champions in their trust since 2012. The organisation did this by working with their HR department to create a clear job descriptor of what wellbeing champions would be required to do and produced a document outlining what the trust expects from wellbeing champions such as making yourself visible.

    The trust provides champions with:

    • regular support meetings and coffee mornings to check in on how they are doing
    • an inbox managed by the health and wellbeing team which they can send any queries to
    • protected time to assure that they can fulfil their champion duties.

    They are planning to train and support additional champions to enable all health and wellbeing champions to share and sign post, rather than becoming specific specialists. The organisation’s wellbeing guardian is very supportive of the champions and assures that they are constantly being discussed at board level.

    Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust has recruited and trained 280 wellbeing champions in their trust since 2016. The trust have successfully done this by holding a wellbeing day where they handed out flyers to members of staff encouraging them to join and to raise awareness.

    When appointed, the health and wellbeing lead shared the following information with the champion:

    • a role descriptor, caveating that every team will be different and that the champion needs to get to know their team for them to be successful
    • signs them up to receive a wellbeing Wednesday bulletin which details all the wellbeing information the champions can signpost their colleagues to
    • invites them to the two wellbeing champion events they have each year.

    To continue recruiting champions in the organisation each month the trust issues a ‘wellbeing hero’ award to all staff and encourage the winner to volunteer to be a wellbeing champion.

    Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust introduced wellbeing champions into their organisation in 2019 as a part of their quality improvement project. The trust now has around 150 wellbeing champions in post as well as six wellbeing leads.

    The trust follow the following procedure to recruit for wellbeing champions:

    • They are sent an application form (manager approval is required) and role descriptor.
    • Once that is returned, they are then asked to complete E-learning packages on: three step process in having supportive conversations and mental health responder, each one takes around 40 minutes.
    • On completion of the training, they then schedule an induction with the wellbeing lead, this is an opportunity to give clarity and expectations, and share what other champions within the network are doing.   

    The trust also offers a six-hour diffuser training they can access if they wish. This was put together by the company who trained the staff in crisis management.

    Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has implemented 46 health and wellbeing champions into their organisation since 2019. In December 2019 the organisation sought out what they could do to make their organisation better.

    Due to the geographical spread of the trust, the health and wellbeing team targeted localities to ensure that they had a wellbeing champion within each speciality. When recruited the champions are provided with a 3-hour training session by better health at work focusing on regional priorities and how they can support staff in their teams.

    The champions are supported by:

    • The health and wellbeing lead who runs monthly virtual sessions,
    • A Facebook group with all the other champions to share good practice,
    • Weekly wellbeing emails to signpost options for staff.

    The trust is planning to get each champion a hoodie so that they are visible to all staff members and are in the process of training their next cohort of champions.

    We would love to hear how you have recruited health and champions in your organisation so please email us at healthandwellbeing@nhsemployers.org