How to keep your health and wellbeing strategy alive

Jogger running

Writing your health and wellbeing strategy is often the easy part as the evidence base is clear. Making it relevant, engaging with staff and delivering the strategy is the challenge. Here we bring you six ways to help you keep your strategy alive. 

Give a strong, clear message
If staff are unwell, unhappy or don't feel safe at work, then trusts would not be able to provide good patient care. This makes staff health and wellbeing fundamental and a clear case for being central to a trust's activities. It's important that this message is communicated regularly through your policies and actions, as this will ensure that staff health and wellbeing is seen as a core priority, rather than an extra piece of work being undertaken in isolation.

Here are some key questions:

  • What is the message you are giving about staff health and wellbeing?
  • Are your actions reflecting this message?
  • What do your values say about staff health and wellbeing?
  • What does your staff survey say about perception of wellbeing? Is this where you want this to be?
  • How is information on staff wellbeing communicated across the organisation? Is there an agreed approach? 

Continually review the climate
The economic climate, an ageing workforce; working longer with increasing health requirements; diverse workloads and increasing use of research and technology in patient care - the pressures on NHS staff multiply and inevitably this increases the risk of absence for physical and mental health reasons, and can continually shift the priorities and focus of health and wellbeing for staff.

To be proactive you need to continually review the climate, widen your horizons and look at what health and wellbeing means to your staff internally and externally and how this is impacting on them, their families and the wider community.

Is there a particular area we need to focus on? Is it because of organisational change? Is it because of what your staff are dealing with? Is it about getting a break? Is it just about saying thank you? As the climate changes the focus will shift.

To keep your health and wellbeing strategy alive you need to flex with these changes and refocus your priorities, to meet those needs.

Here are some key questions:

  • What information are you using to measure the climate, both internally and externally?
  • How are you measuring the impact on staff?
  • How often are you reviewing this?
  • What is your process for targeting areas you identify as changing?
  • How will you take actions forward to support staff?

Engage key stakeholders
To get the best outcome for staff you need to engage with everyone who contributes, or could have a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of staff. Be clear of what that contribution is and how they will be engaged on this agenda.  Remember that occupational health and human resources cannot do this in isolation.

If you have sickness absence within your trust, you know the cost is human and financial. Ill staff means reduced patient care and back-fill costs, and this creates budget deficit. If staff are encouraged and supported to manage their health and lifestyles this will ultimately reduce costs, improve health, make staff more loyal and motivated, and therefore the result is better patient care. 

The more stakeholders that are engaged, the broader the expertise, the wider the interest and impact the strategy can have, when actions are put into practice.

Here are some key questions:

  • How healthy and well is your trust?
  • Who are your partners on this agenda?
  • Who is responsible for health and wellbeing?
  • Think broadly - who has an impact on staff health and wellbeing?
  • Who doesn't that could/should have? Have a conversation with them and ask them what they could contribute
  • What are the roles of the different stakeholders and what can they offer?
  • How will your tell staff what's on offer?

Engage with staff
One of the most important areas to focus on is staff engagement. What do staff want? How do we know this? Typically what happens if trusts don't know what their staff want, the intervention provided is basic. Those staff that have already actively used this or taken part remain the ones engaged and the benefits to other staff groups are rarely seen.

Health and wellbeing means so much to different people and trusts need to establish what it means to their staff and what small steps could be taken to make improvements, as well as looking at larger initiatives. Just having a conversation and listening to staff about what matters to them and what would improve their health and wellbeing has a positive impact. Initiatives do not need to reinvent the wheel, or be things that cost the earth, if staff tell you they want senior managers to be more visible, a monthly ward walk can achieve this and have the impact needed.

Engaging is about talking, listening and then acting.  You should develop a living strategy that grows with the process over time, one that staff constantly feed into and feel that they own, and has a positive impact on them. By involving union representatives you can gain more information giving you a greater impact.

Think about the messages you are giving to staff about health and wellbeing. Sickness absence is often the key measure used. Do staff know why that is? Do they think the trust is focusing energies and efforts on keeping staff well and at work? Or do they feel that they can't be ill and that it will be viewed negatively if they are?

Do your staff know how to access the timely support and interventions that are available to them? If sickness absence is a key measure in your trust, is the message staff are taking away the right one, and the one intended to support their health and wellbeing?

Some ideas to help engage your staff:

  • Walk the floor, talk to staff
  • Make time to listen
  • Hold informal staff drop in sessions
  • Consider having a staff suggestion box
  • Be clear how staff can give you their view and thoughts and communicate this
  • When reviewing and revising policies that affect staff, involve them. Ask them what works and what doesn't, what they find supportive, and what needs further development
  • Be open and transparent about health and wellbeing work, 'You said... We did...'.

Our toolkit Engaging your staff: the NHS staff engagement resource provides you with the information and tools you need to help increase staff engagement in your organisation. 

Use your data
There is so much data now available for trusts to use at both a national and local level. The more this data is used the better informed strategies become and the more the needs of the workforce can be understood.

Here are some key questions: 

  • What is your minimum data set that you will regularly review?
  • What does the data tell you when you look at this compared with last month and other available data? Are there any correlations? 

Evaluate the impact and be responsive
Evaluation of health and wellbeing interventions is crucial to achieving sustained organisational support. This is an area which is difficult to do and is often overlooked when implementing initiatives. However, as resources become more and more difficult to secure, it becomes even more important for you to be able to demonstrate the impact and effectiveness of health and wellbeing.

There are three areas that you should consider when evaluating health and wellbeing:

  • Evaluating the effectiveness of the intervention itself – usually carried out just after the intervention and focusing on immediate responses. An example of this could be evaluating a stress workshop or asking for feedback after receiving a intervention (e.g. completing a questionnaire to evaluate the support received).
  • Evaluating the impact on the individual – this will usually require two levels of measurement: before the intervention and at some point after the intervention. This level of evaluation should focus on the difference made to the individual as a result of the health and wellbeing activity. An example of this would be a follow-up evaluation with an individual who received a health check to find out what action they took as a result, or a follow-up evaluation with someone after they received rapid access interventions to see if they are managing their health any better or have had fewer sick days.
  • Evaluating the impact on the organisation – this is much more difficult to achieve and many other factors will impact on some of these measures. However, this is arguably the most important level of evaluation because this shows the difference made to the business. It generally will deliver the type of evidence most compelling in influencing the board and achieving future investment for health and wellbeing. Typically at this level, you would look at changes in sickness absence figures, reductions in length of time off sick, staff engagement scores from the staff survey. Linking these to other organisational measures such as patient satisfaction, infection rates, mortality etc can provide greater impact.

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