Lis Allen, Head of Human Resources at the Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, spoke at The NHS Workforce Event: Recruitment, Retention and Wellbeing conference in February 2021 . Lis outlined how they are using their 2020 NHS Staff survey data to inform health and wellbeing strategies.
Royal Brompton & Harefield are a group of specialist acute hospitals for Heart and Lung Disease. Recognised as one of the top 10 cardiac hospitals in the world, they understand that their staffs’ health and wellbeing is essential to achieving world class work. For them, organisational health and wellbeing are key to creating a resilient and efficient workforce.
Understanding and Taking Action from Staff Survey Data
Data from last year’s NHS Staff survey (2020) shows that 40% of respondents from Royal Brompton & Harefield, experienced work-related stress .
Covid-19 will exasperate existing challenges surrounding mental and physical wellbeing further, and we are also likely to see new challenges arise as a result of different ways of working
Already there has been an increase in staff reporting muscular-skeletal issues. A consequence of not having appropriate setups to work from home .
Additionally, The WHO predicts depression to be the leading disease burden, forecasting that by 2030 mental health problems will be the leading cause of mortality and morbidity globally . Therefore, it is imperative that staff wellbeing is at the forefront of organisational strategies.
However, in many cases, the changes Covid-19 brought have had a positive impact. For example, the number of staff who felt pressured to go in to work when ill has dropped significantly due to covid risks.
Covid-19 brought about new ways of working; it is important that we recognise these positive changes.
In 2017, the Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust signed the Time to Change Employer Pledge. The pledge commits to changing the way we all think and act about mental health in the workplace. Time to Change provides employers with an action plan, to help make these commitments a reality. This action plan must be completed and submitted back to Time to Change.
Yearly NHS Staff survey data will help the trust determine the success of their actions and indicate where change is needed.
The trust’s vision is underpinned by the ambition to promote health and wellbeing across their organisation.
They recognise the link between mental health and an individual’s performance at work. The trust place emphasis on the contribution every individual brings to the organisation, understanding that a sense of purpose contributes to self-value. For this reason, they focus on creating an overarching, global, local and individual purpose. When staff connect to the organisational purpose, they can see the direct contribution they are having.
Healthy colleagues feel empowered to make their own choices. Pre-pandemic it was not thought that many roles could work remotely, but the last 12 months have shown that plenty of jobs can be performed online. For this reason, the trust believes it is important to give staff options for self-selection. This includes supporting alternative work patterns, letting staff decide in which work environment they work best. In return, staff feel as though they are in control. Consequently, there is a need to redefine offices, creating flexible spaces that empower staff and allow for collaboration.
Equally, it is important to ensure that staff don’t feel socially disconnected. There are concerns for the future NHS workforce. Current students won’t have had the chance to develop necessary social skills and collaborative working practices. So, there will be a need for strong leaders who can enable “true meritocracy and team belonging” . This can be done through shared team objectives and measurements. Managers need to embed consistent recognition and communication of success to staff.
Additionally, the trust is looking for compassionate and value-driven leadership. Leaders need to build emotional intelligence and ensure their teams are working towards shared values. A strong relationship with the staff will help leaders recognise mental health difficulties. From there they can signpost staff to support.
The trust’s wider occupational health and welling being support is now outlined in job descriptions:
‘we will give you a check-up when you join us, and you can also take advantage of counselling, stress management, relaxation classes, therapeutic massage, osteopathy and holiday vaccination services should you need them’ .
If staff feel positive in themselves and the organisation, they will be able to confidently face challenges. The trust aims to provide holistic health and wellbeing practice, giving staff control.
- Ensure that staff can identify their purpose within the larger organisational aims
- Create flexible working opportunities so that staff are given a choice on how they wish to work
- Compassionate leadership will build better relationships with staff, enabling managers to identify mental health struggles and signpost team members appropriately
 Allen, L. 2021. The NHS Workforce Event: Recruitment, Retention and Wellbeing conference
 nhsstaffsurveyresults.com. 2020. NHS Staff Survey Results