NHS staff are to be offered a programme of fitness activities and healthy options for meals as part of a major drive to improve their wellbeing, the chief executive of NHS England will announce later today.
Health checks covering mental health and musculoskeletal problems - the two biggest causes of sickness absence across the NHS – will also be on offer to workers in the £5 million initiative.
The programme is expected to bring down some of the costs caused by staff absence from poor health, estimated to be £2.4bn a year - without including the cost of treatment and temporary workers to fill posts.
Speaking at the NHS Innovation Expo conference in Manchester later today, NHS chief executive Simon Stevens will say that “creating healthy and supportive workplaces is no longer a nice-to-have, it’s a must-do” for employers.
“When it comes to supporting the health of our own workforce, frankly the NHS needs to put its own house in order”
He will also say it is important to ensure workplaces are attractive to staff to help convert temporary workers into permanent employees, as part of an ongoing strategy to bring down trusts’ agency spending.
Trusts will be told by Mr Stevens to “ditch junk food” and that it is unacceptable for health sector organisations to be contracting with caterers that mainly sell foods which don’t meet nutritional standards
The initiative will see NHS England negotiate improvements with major catering vendors to ensure they offer nutritional information about meals, promote healthy options, and provide more balanced food choices in vending machines.
Meanwhile, ten trusts – including organisations such as Birmingham Children’s Hospital University Hospital Southampton and York Teaching Hospital – will lead the programme of activities for staff.
They will be expected to run a physical activity scheme such as yoga, zumba or sports classes, provide specific staff access to physiotherapy, mental health talking therapies, smoking and weight services, as well as provide training to managers to help promote healthy living.
The programme will then roll out to all other NHS employers over the next five years, starting in 2016 with those that have the highest rates of sickness absence and recruitment and retention issues.
GPs will also be offered a nationally-specified occupational health service for those suffering from burnout and stress.
Mr Stevens will say: “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.”
NHS Employers chief executive Danny Mortimer said: “Supporting our staff to stay healthy is a key priority for employers. We look forward to continuing to support the ambitious programme being launched today.”