Case Study

Improving menopause support for staff: Sherwood Forest Hospital Foundation Trust

How Sherwood Forest Hospital Foundation improved its support for staff going through menopause.

6 October 2021

Overview

Senior nurses at Sherwood Forest Hospital Foundation Trust identified a link between sickness absences and the menopause. 

The trust then committed to embedding a menopause strategy for all staff going through menopause.

Key benefits and outcomes

  • A change in health and wellbeing culture in the trust.
  • The first menopause conference in 2018 developed for line managers and staff.
  • Since their engagement with the menopause programme, occupational health, HR and gynaecological physiotherapists now all consider menopause in their clinical assessments.
  • Referrals into occupational health now state menopause at triage where stress/anxiety and age is considered.

What the organisation faced

After an ITV survey showed that 25 per cent of staff have considered quitting work due to menopause symptoms, Sherwood Forest Hospital Foundation Trust wanted to do something to care for their staff and help them stay at work for longer.

81 per cent of the trusts’ permanent workforce are female and 35 per cent are over the age of 50 years. The UK's average age for someone to go through menopause is 51, with some people experiencing it before the age of 40. By supporting people experiencing menopause, the trust gains a happier and healthier workforce.

What the organisation did

In January 2018, Suzanne Banks, former chief nurse at Sherwood Forest Hospital Foundation Trust, contacted Deborah Garlick, founder of Henpicked, a community for women over the age of 40. 

She asked if Henpicked would share their expertise to help create a more supportive environment for people experiencing menopause.

Suzanne set up a project team to include human resources, occupational health, sexual health, gynaecology clinicians, communications and trade unions. 

The team created a menopause project plan and followed up with bi-monthly project group meetings. The group made links with experts including Professor Jo Brewis, co-author of the evidence-based research report: The Effects of Menopause Transition on Women’s Economic Participation in the UK.

Professor Brewis started a 12-month study with the trust led by the University of Leicester, Bristol and the Open University. 

Surveying and interviewing a group of women from within the trust, they aim to measure the impact of menopause support through intervention support. 

The findings will help to make improvements and amendments for a trust guidance plan. By taking part in this research, the trust is also making a valuable contribution to national academic research on the subject.

Suzanne and her team planned the trust's first menopause conference on World Menopause Day 2018. The conference launched new guidelines, leaflets and intranet support for staff. Line managers learned how to better support staff and all colleagues discovered how to access advice and support. 

Using their learning from Henpicked, the research intervention study and expertise from clinical colleagues, they developed an action plan to educate line mangers on the menopause.

Since 2018, the trust has hosted an annual large scale event for colleagues on World Menopause Day, and its focus of support is currently being extended across Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Integrate Care System (ICA) as part of the regional Mental Health Resilience Hub.

Results and benefits

  • The trust held two menopause conferences which sold out, and now holds an annual menopause event, open to all colleagues to attend.
  • A live BBC East Midlands interview took place at the first conference and media attended the second conference.
  • The trust continues to raise awareness both internally and externally through their chief nurse bulletins, communications bulletin, word of mouth and social media, and continues to be well supported by both local and regional media.
  • The trust now has menopause books available in the library sponsored by the trade union.
  • The trust will host monthly menopause support groups. 20 to 30 members of staff will attend to represent all professional groups in the trust.
  • Occupational health, health practitioners and physios have now changed their practices to consider menopause when reviewing a referral.
  • Referrals into occupational health now state menopause at triage and where stress/anxiety and age is considered.
  • Psychological safety and colleague wellbeing is a key focus of the trust.The impact can be demonstrated by the 2020 NHS Staff Survey results which put the organisation as best in the Midlands, and third best nationally.

Takeaway tips

  1. Understand your workforce profile and age profile in each of your divisions.
  2. It’s very important to get executive buy-in and sponsorship because it helps to implement a cultural change.
  3. Use this shift as a retention strategy to retain your most experienced and skilled workforce.
  4. Make use of your feedback. Sherwood Forest are using the feedback from the conferences to inform their monthly support groups.
  5. Consider the environmental changes that will be needed from both clinical and non-clinical perspective. For example, provide seating next to windows, fans, access to water stations / bottled water and access to changing facilities. Sherwood are also looking at changing the fabric of uniforms to a cotton base which will be more cooling.
  6. Keep talking about menopause to overcome the taboo.

Further information

For more information about the work in this case study, contact Ceri Feltbower, Associate Director of Service Improvement, Sherwood Forest Hospital Foundation Trust by emailing: ceri.feltbower@nhs.net or ring 01623 622515.

For more information about Henpicked see their website: www.menopauseintheworkplace.co.uk, ring 0115 824 3234 and on Twitter it's @T4W_Henpicked