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November 6, 2009

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NICE outlines blueprint to improve mental health

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has

launched new guidance to help employers promote mental well-being in

the workplace.

Work-related mental-health conditions, including stress, anxiety and depression, are believed to account for an estimated 13.7 million working days lost each year, at a cost to UK employers of around £28.3 billion.

The extent of the problem was brought into sharp focus earlier this week following the results of a survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD), in which one in four UK workers described their mental health as moderate, or poor.

The survey of 2000 workers also revealed that more than 90 per cent of those suffering from poor mental health admitted it affected their job performance, with more than half of sufferers (56 per cent) saying they had taken time off sick.

The NICE guidance sets out a number of recommendations highlighting how employers and employees can work in partnership to improve mental well-being in the workplace. They include:

€ᄁ promote a culture of participation, equality and fairness based on open communication and inclusion;  
€ᄁ create an awareness and understanding of mental well-being and reduce the potential for discrimination and stigma related to mental-health problems;
€ᄁ ensure systems are in place for assessing and monitoring the mental well-being of employees, so that risks caused by work and working conditions can be addressed;
€ᄁ if reasonably practical, provide employees with opportunities for flexible working according to their needs and aspirations in both their personal and working lives; and
€ᄁ strengthen the role of line managers in promoting the mental well-being of employees through supportive leadership style and management practices.

The guidance also calls on professionals working in occupational-health services to collaborate more widely with micro, small and medium-sized businesses to improve access to support. By following these recommendations, NICE estimates that an average organisation of 1000 employees can save around £250,000 a year through reduced absenteeism and increased productivity.

Welcoming the guidance, Sian Thomas, director of NHS Employers, said: “Tackling mental ill health in the NHS workplace is good for the individuals concerned and can also have a positive impact on the diversity and productivity of the workforce, ultimately improving the patient experience.

“NHS Employers is committed to helping NHS organisations support staff with mental-health problems and encouraging trusts to employ more staff from this vulnerable group. Later this year we will be launching our Open Your Mind campaign on mental health and employment to reduce mental-health stigma and help employers create a better working environment for staff with mental-health problems.”

Adding his support, Dr Richard Preece, consultant in occupational medicine at Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Even in the best workplaces people still suffer mental-health issues. My patients have access to occupational-health support but more often this isn’t the case. This guidance emphasises the need for occupational-health services to be made more accessible to everyone working, or seeking work.”

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis also called on employers to act on the guidance, “instead of burying their heads in the sand”. He added: “Employers would save millions and deliver a better service by digging into and removing the underlying causes of stress and depression in their workplaces.”

The document, ‘Promoting mental well-being through productive and healthy working conditions: guidance for employers’ is available by clicking here.

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


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