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November 23, 2009

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Vision of NHS to become staff health ambassador

The Government has ratified an independent report on NHS staff health

and well-being by accepting all of its recommendations in full.

The proposals are expected to be implemented in line with a draft action plan drawn up by the Department of Health (DoH), which has also set aside £6.5m to finance the national systems required for delivery. Author of the DoH-commissioned report, Dr Steve Boorman, believes the recommendations could save the NHS up to 3.4m working days — equivalent to 14,900 extra staff.

Published on 23 November, Dr Boorman’s final report (following an interim report in August) makes 20 recommendations, including:
€ᄁ routinely available early-intervention programmes in all Trusts for common illnesses and injuries, such as musculoskeletal disorders and mental-health conditions;
€ᄁ the appointment of a board executive champion for staff health and well-being; and
€ᄁ improved training to ensure that managers are properly equipped to support staff and address their health and well-being issues.

The Government wants occupational-health teams to re-prioritise their resources and invest in specialist physiotherapy and counselling staff, to support early intervention on mental-health issues and musculoskeletal disorders. It also expects occupational-health services to consider self-referral options for staff, if these are not already available.

To help implementation at the local level, all Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs) will receive a bespoke local analysis of the health and well-being data collected by the Boorman review team. SHAs will then work with NHS organisations in their area to help develop local health and well-being strategies, revised guidance on which will be published next month by NHS Employers.

If all the recommendations are implemented, NHS bodies could see a reduction in staff sickness absence and an improvement in the quality of patient care. In addition, the organisation as a whole could yield direct cost savings of about £555 million each year, which could then be reinvested to further improve the quality of patient care.

Health secretary Andy Burnham said: “The purpose of the NHS is to improve the health and well-being of the general public. We cannot be serious about this if we are not committed to improving the health of those that care for our population. . . We want to see the NHS become an exemplar for other organisations to follow, valuing its employees as it values its patients.”

Echoing the minister’s comments, director-general of NHS Workforce, Clare Chapman, said: “We must ensure the health of our workforce in order to provide a high quality of care to the 1m patients the NHS sees, on average, every 36 hours. Our vision is that NHS staff will be ambassadors for health with patients, their families, and the communities in which they live.”

Head of health at trade union Unison, Karen Jennings, also praised the Government’s commitment, adding: “There is a solid connection between staff health and well-being and good standards of patient care, so it is in everyone’s interests to make the health of staff a priority.

“Prevention is always better than cure and targeting problem areas like back injuries and stress will save staff from unnecessary pain and the need to take valuable time off work and away from patients.”

One Trust that is already on the path to implementing the review’s proposals is Aintree University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Its chief executive Jim Birrell said: “We welcome Dr Boorman’s report and the greater emphasis this places on delivering better health and well-being for NHS staff. Many of the recommendations reflect the work we are already doing in partnership with our staff at Aintree.

For example, our new health and well-being centre is helping improve the lives of NHS staff and the feedback from them has already been extremely positive. In addition, as well as supporting our own staff, we are able to offer the benefits that the centre brings to local small and medium-sized enterprises.”

Dr Boorman’s final report, its recommendations, and the Department of Health’s response can be found at:

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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