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In tune with staff wellbeing

One NHS trust has introduced a range of initiatives to improve staff health, and the work has earned it a special NHS accreditation. Sarah Wray reports.

One NHS trust has introduced a range of initiatives to improve staff health, and the work has earned it a special NHS accreditation. Sarah Wray reports.

You may be familiar with staff working in harmony, but how about in a choir? It is just one of the approaches that an NHS trust has used to improve the health of its employees. This work has resulted in Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (NNUH) achieving a Staying Healthy at Work (SHaW) accreditation.

The SHaW programme, supported by the charity Business in the Community and the Department of Health-funded programme Active Workplaces, aims to improve the physical, mental and social wellbeing of employees in all sectors across the east of England.

Using a ten-point framework created for the SHaW scheme, the NNUH health and wellbeing team developed a year-long action plan for improving staff wellbeing.

Wendy Goode, workplace health and wellbeing manager at NNUH, led the project at the trust. She says initiatives have included online health advice on the trust’s intranet, and the introduction of book clubs, running clubs and a choir.

One area the trust wanted to focus on was mental health, because 38 per cent of staff approaching the trust’s occupational health (OH) service were doing so for this reason.

Ms Goode explains: ‘After reviewing our mental health services, we decided to appoint an occupational clinical psychologist. In addition to this, all our OH nurses are trained in cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) awareness, three nurses in the team have gained a certificate in CBT for OH practitioners, and we have introduced a 24-hour employee counselling service.’

Ms Goode says the trust is already seeing improvements in staff health and wellbeing. For example, the trust ran a sports and physical activity challenge scheme last year, which led to more than half of the workforce being engaged in a physical activity.

Mood enhancer

Improving health and wellbeing can boost motivation and mood – and this can extend to hospital visitors too, Ms Goode says: ‘A woman who had just received bad news heard the choir singing and told us it had uplifted her and made her feel more positive about what had happened.

‘I know that singing in the choir uplifts the staff members because I am one of them. You might have a terrible day but people getting together, singing and laughing does raise your spirits and you feel far more positive afterwards.

Ms Goode says the clubs give staff a focus: ‘They don’t go home worrying about work. They go home feeling a bit lighter.’

Senior OH nurse adviser Karen Carpenter, who is heavily involved in the trust’s health and wellbeing work, says working relationships have been boosted because of the initiative.

‘Without these clubs, I would not normally chat with a vascular consultant or the catering porter, but new working and social relationships are now being formed.

‘When staff meet the OH nurses in the clubs and put a name to a face, they are then more likely to feel able to approach us if they have a problem.’

Ms Goode adds that staff absence rates have fallen, and she believes health and wellbeing initiatives are the reason.

‘People are coming forward much earlier with problems, so the OH team is adopting more of a preventive approach, especially in areas such as mental health,’ she says.

Although working towards the accreditation was ultimately a success, there were some obstacles, says Ms Goode: ‘The big challenge, especially for nurses, is making time to leave the ward, especially if they are working 12-hour shifts.’

One way around this has been running regular surveys to find out what activities staff want and the best times for them to attend. Activities are widely promoted by talking to staff, advertising and holding open days.

‘You cannot just put a notice on the intranet saying there is a choir on Monday evening,’ says Ms Carpenter. ‘You have to push it the whole time, but it does work.’

Ms Goode says the trust’s SHaW accreditation is helping the OH team focus on the future. Priorities include fast-track musculoskeletal physiotherapy and the effects of management behaviour on health and wellbeing.

‘The accreditation shows that we understand the link between health and wellbeing and organisational performance, and, ultimately, its effect on patient care,’ she says.

Resources

Association of Occupational Health Nurse Practitioners

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