Trusts are consistently failing to give serious consideration to the health and wellbeing of their staff, despite the increasing pressure that the NHS workforce is under, a report has warned.
Less than two thirds of trusts have a plan in place for NHS staff health and wellbeing, according to the report published today by the Royal College of Physicians.
In addition, only 28% of NHS trusts in England reported that they had a plan or policy in place to help reduce obesity among staff and just 57% had a plan to support the mental health of their staff.
Staff often noted a shortage of basic staff amenities, including adequate working space, rest facilities or somewhere to buy food, the report added.
The report – titled Work and Wellbeing in the NHS: why staff health matters to patient care – stated that high quality patient care relied on skilled staff who were not only physically and mentally well enough to do their jobs, but also feel valued, supported and engaged.
“Staff wellbeing should no longer be treated as optional extra for the NHS”
It highlighted evidence suggesting that good staff health and wellbeing was linked to reduced MRSA infection levels and lower patient mortality rates but better patient satisfaction and experience.
NHS organisations were often ignoring the “compelling” advantages of having a robust plan in place for their staff, which was putting patient care at risk, the report warned.
The report also highlighted that organisations with higher levels of staff engagement had 13% lower staff turnover and significantly reduced sickness absence rates.
It said the issue had been “scrutinised and discussed” for the last 20 years with “little meaningful change”, while noting that the health service’s greatest asset was the people who deliver it.
Dr Sian Williams, the RCP’s clinical adviser on NHS workforce health, said: “It is time to move beyond short term, one-off initiatives to help staff improve their health at work.
“It is clear that we need action now,” she said. “We owe it to those who work hard every day for our NHS to help them maintain and improve their health.”
“Staff wellbeing should no longer be treated as optional extra for the NHS – it is critical to patient care,” she added.
The report’s findings back results from the latest Nursing Times annual survey, published in December. Nearly two-thirds, 60%, of the nearly 750 survey respondents said their employer did not attach a high enough priority to staff health and wellbeing.
It is now over five years since the government-commissioned Boorman Review concluded there was a “strong case” for investing in NHS staff health and wellbeing.
“A healthy workforce is essential for an effective health care service”
Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said the RCP’s report “shines a light on one of the most serious issues facing the NHS”.
“The Boorman review demonstrated the importance of staff health and wellbeing programmes for NHS organisations more than five years ago, yet this appears to have been ignored by too many trusts,” he said.
“Nurses are some of the hardest working people in the UK and deserve to feel healthy and motivated in their professional lives,” he added. “NHS organisations need to acknowledge this issue and take action.”
Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, acknowledged that trusts faced an “uphill struggle” on the issue due to increasing pressures on services.
“We support the call for greater national support for this vital area, which builds on the work being done by many employers in the NHS,” he said.