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Progress ‘slow’ on staff metal wellbeing policy

A new audit shows that over half of NHS trusts have a mental wellbeing policy to support staff.

However, while more trusts have organisation-wide plans on health and wellbeing, 24% do not monitor the mental wellbeing of their staff at all.

This has been cited as the second most common cause of long-term sickness absence amongst NHS workers.

The audit investigates the degree to which trusts are taking up NICE public health guidance for the workplace.

Just 28% have a plan to tackle obesity levels. Although this is higher than the previous audit in 2010, the number offering staff healthy food choices in staff restaurants during night shifts has fallen.

“The round two audit results show that there is acknowledgement of the importance of staff health and wellbeing in the NHS; but the results also show that there is wide variation and progress is slow. This is concerning given the evidence that NHS staff health influences patient outcomes, for example infection rates,” says Dr Siân Williams, clinical director of the HWDU.

“There is room for improvement to ensure that organisations are providing the best support for their staff. The NICE guidance that we measured against is evidence-based, and so is a very good place to start for NHS Trusts’ developing staff health and wellbeing strategies. In fact, I would urge all trusts to familiarise themselves with it, because we anticipate further guidance from NICE about public health and the workplace next year.”

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, described the figures as ‘disappointing’.

“The NHS is currently facing huge challenges, with demand rising alongside unprecedented financial constraints. The resulting pressures on health care workers are extraordinary. In the autumn the RCN published Beyond Breaking Point, which showed that more than half of nurses had been made unwell by stress over the previous year,” he says.

However, Dean Royles chief executive of NHS Employers says: “The NHS has maintained an important and responsible focus on the wellbeing of its workforce, amid all the other challenges faced by staff and managers.

“At least 300,000 more staff are covered by comprehensive policies compared to three years ago and sick-leave has fallen over the same period among nurses and other major staff groups.”