22nd April 2020 Written by Skills for Health

mental health and wellbeing“Having great wellbeing strategies can make the NHS a more attractive place to work and make for a sustainable workforce of the future.”

In these series of blogs ‘Frontline matters’, with Senior Consultant Andrew Lovegrove, we’ll be exploring the key outcomes that could have an impact on the future of our workforce. Today’s feature all about health and wellbeing of our NHS workforce, released whilst we still don’t know for sure when the end may be in sight, or we might be able to think about a ‘recovery’ phase.

In these incredibly difficult times, it is not surprising that mental health and wellbeing of our NHS workforce is of great concern for all. In the last few weeks, the immense pressure on frontline staff is not just a physical one, but an emotional one also.

Whether it’s being forced to stay away from family members in order to keep them safe, or needing to regularly contact patient’s family members with the most distressing news imaginable, the toll the Coronavirus pandemic is taking on mental wellbeing is not yet even fully realised.

It’s vitally important to recognise the need for equipping our workforce with the skills and resilience to respond to the immediate crisis, whilst also considering how we can maintain the good mental health and wellbeing. How can NHS employers ensure this is considered, and why is it so crucial?

“It’s an excellent question, and something not to be taken lightly.

Ultimately, we need to recognise health and wellbeing for the workforce is not just ‘a nice thing to do’, it’s something we can’t operate without. We need our NHS people to be doing well in order to do their jobs effectively and look after others. It goes from having the right PPE and physical needs of wellbeing, right through to dealing with the emotional stress endured during months of trauma, and after a particularly hard shift for example.

Of course, staff need to deal with the job at hand, but strain also comes from things like speaking with relatives who can’t be by their loved one’s sides during these incredibly heart-breaking times. We need to recognise that NHS staff are not machines, they are human beings and we need a mechanism to allow them to debrief, reflect and get things off their chest.

I know of one hospital who have set-up a room for staff to simply go and de-stress after a difficult situation or whenever they need it. Health and wellbeing are fundamental to everything that we do. Having the right support structures in place to maintain the health and wellbeing of staff is a long-term investment that cannot be ignored.

With those support structures in place, we can reduce sickness and absence, improve retention, effectiveness and efficiency. The cost implications of not having structures in place is far greater than taking a pro-active approach to care for staff. Without support in place, things like recruitment, training and absence becomes a costly price to pay, compared with simply looking after wellbeing in the first instance.

Now we’re seeing rapid recruitment and people coming back to the service who have retired, whilst fantastic, is not sustainable in the long run. By having health and wellbeing support in place, we’ll also save money and make the workforce more effective.”

Skills for Health, the Sector Skills Council for Health and advocates of the NHS workforce recognise the crucial part that leadership play in ensuring mental health and wellbeing of our NHS workforce.

Get in touch to find out how else we support NHS leaders, developing a sustainable workforce fit for the future.