Hospital trust to lead drive to improve health among NHS staff

Southampton’s teaching hospitals are set to be part of a major drive to improve the health and wellbeing of staff across the NHS.

University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust has been named one of ten organisations selected by NHS England to trial and evaluate new projects which could then be rolled out nationwide.

The £5 million initiative, to be launched by NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens at the at the NHS Innovation Expo conference later today (Wednesday), will set out how NHS organisations will be supported to help staff to stay well.

The scheme will focus on serving healthier food, promoting physical activity, reducing stress and providing health checks covering mental health and musculoskeletal problems.

Public Health England estimates the cost to the NHS of staff absence due to poor health at £2.4 billion a year – accounting for around £1 in every £40 of the total budget.

Mr Stevens said: “NHS staff have some of the most critical but demanding jobs in the country. When it comes to supporting the health of our own workforce, frankly the NHS needs to put its own house in order.

“At a time when arguably the biggest operational challenge facing hospitals is converting overspends on temporary agency staff into attractive flexible permanent posts, creating healthy and supportive workplaces is no longer a nice to have, it’s a must-do.

“And at a time when the pressures on GPs have never been greater, we need to extend the local practitioner health programmes that have been shown to help GPs stay healthy and get back to work when sick.

“Equally, it’s time for PFI contractors and catering firms to ‘smell the coffee’ – ditch junk food from hospitals and serve up affordable and healthy options instead. Staff, patients and visitors alike will all benefit.”

The ten selected NHS organisations and NHS England itself, collectively employing around 55,000 staff, will lead implementation of the new programme.

Work is already underway in Southampton, with a wide-ranging package of support available through the occupational health team and the launch this week of a dedicated self-referral clinic for staff with musculoskeletal problems.

Fiona Dalton, chief executive at UHS, said: “We are delighted to be one of a small number of organisations selected to participate in such an exciting national project to improve the health of staff throughout the NHS.

“Staff across our hospital trust undertake demanding and often emotionally challenging jobs and we want to look after them with the care and compassion with which we ask them to look after patients.

"As part of truly valuing our staff, it is absolutely right that we provide opportunities to help them care for and improve their own health and wellbeing.

“Over the coming weeks, we will build on the schemes already available through our occupational health team and our existing strengths in research, including our national NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre In nutrition and the National Centre of Excellence for Musculoskeletal Health and Work, and create further support for the health of our staff."

This new initiative is designed to put into practice the commitment made in the NHS Five Year Forward View “to ensure the NHS as an employer sets a national example in the support it offers its own staff to stay healthy”.

Other NHS employers leading the initiative are:

Birmingham Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust
Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
Rotherham CCG
The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust
West Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust
York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
The Hurley Group
Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust.

For more information, visit NHS England.

Posted on Wednesday 2 September 2015