NHS England sets aside £600 million to improve staff health
Trusts can earn a share by introducing fitness classes and removing junk food from the workplace
Nurses and other professionals in the NHS in England are to be offered fitness classes, mental health support and physiotherapy services as part of a campaign to improve staff health.
NHS England announced that hospitals and other providers will be able to earn their share of a £600 million fund if they put in place health improvement initiatives such as reducing the availability of junk food in the workplace and encouraging staff to have the winter flu vaccine.
Providers will be funded to offer physical activity schemes such as fitness classes, stress management services, counselling, help with sleeping difficulties, and fast-track physiotherapy services for staff with musculoskeletal problems.
Measures that will help trusts qualify for funding include removing from their buildings adverts and price promotions for sugary drinks and foods high in fat, sugar and/or salt.
The initiative echoes the aims of the Nursing Standard Eat Well, Nurse Well campaign for better workplace food.
RCN general secretary Janet Davies said the NHS England move ‘recognises that improving staff health can deliver better care for patients’.
She called for the initiatives to be accompanied by improved access to flexible working, as well as ‘reducing stress experienced when staff cannot properly care for patients because of insufficient staffing levels’.
Estimates from Public Health England put the cost to the NHS of staff sickness absence at £2.4 billion a year – about £1 in every £40 of the total budget.
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: ‘As the largest employer in Europe, the NHS needs to practise what it preaches by offering better support for the health and wellbeing of our own 1.3 million staff.’