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NHS England launches £600m funding scheme to improve staff health


NHS employers are to have access to a national £600m funding pot from April, under a scheme to improve the health and wellbeing of nurses and other staff, and ensure the service “practises what it preaches”.

The funding from NHS England will be available in 2016-17 to trusts that introduce initiatives such as offering mental health support, physical activities, and physiotherapy services for frontline workers.

“The NHS needs to practise what it preaches by offering better support for the health and wellbeing of our own 1.3 million staff”

Simon Stevens

In addition, money will be given to NHS organisations that take steps to reduce junk food and obesity in the workplace.

This will require them to remove adverts, price promotions and checkout displays of sugary drinks and high fat sugar and salt food from their premises.

They will also have to submit information on their fast food franchise, vending machine and retail outlet contracts in preparation for the proposed NHS 20% “sugar tax” expected to be introduced from April 2017.

Increases in the uptake of the winter flu vaccine by staff to help reduce sickness absence will also be required to gain access to the funding pot.

NHS England said it aimed to improve staff vaccination rates from around 50% to “nearer to 75%”.

Public Health England estimated the cost to the NHS from staff absence due to poor health was around £2.4bn a year.

Simon Stevens

Simon Stevens

Simon Stevens

Meanwhile, figures showed almost 25% of adults in England are obese, with treatment for the condition costing the health service an estimated £5.1bn every year.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: “As the largest employer in Europe, the NHS needs to practise what it preaches by offering better support for the health and wellbeing of our own 1.3 million staff.

“A good place to start is by tackling the sources of staff sickness absence including mental health and musculoskeletal injuries, while doing our bit to end the nation’s obesity epidemic by ditching junk food and sugary drinks in place of tasty, healthy and affordable alternatives.”

“If we can do this well, we hope that more parts of the public and private sector will see the sense of it and also take the plunge,” he added.

Commenting on the funding announcement, the Royal College of Nursing said it was a “positive” move that ”recognises improving staff health can deliver better care for patients”.

Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: “There are many work-related factors which mean hard-working healthcare staff often find it difficult to look after their own health so it’s right that employers should be taking the responsibility for supporting staff to make healthier choices.”

“It’s right that employers should be taking the responsibility for supporting staff to make healthier choices”

Janet Davies

However, she said it must be accompanied by improved access to flexibe working and action to tackle the stress caused by a lack of staff.

Unison’s head of health Christina McAnea echoed her comments, noting the initiative would make a difference for those who were able to use the services, but not for staff that had no time to access them.

“Health workers are constantly under pressure. Encouraging active lifestyles and providing access to healthy food at work will help them, and result in better care for patients,” she said.

She also said it was “about time” staff were able to receive support at work for mental and phsyical health issues.


Readers' comments (24)

  • The best way of improving staff wellbeing is to improve working conditions and ensuring all staff take a proper break; reduce amount of paperwork, involve staff in decision making. Pay increases, recognition. I could go on and on and on.

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  • Anon above. Was just coming on here to make a similar comment so all that remains is to agree with you.

    A healthy and satisfied staff means a highly performing one with an immeasurable impact on patient care. such facilities are a great bonus but of little use if all these other more vital issues sre not addressed and sorted out first which would be far better use of the funding than yet another sticking plaster and sweeping under the carpet. Essential now, to save worthwhile health care delivery to the nation, is some long term strategic planning and deep reflection on the necessity of spending on any short term quick fixes and reflecting on innovative ways of attracting the young to take up training for a career in the NHS and making it appealing enough for them to remain threre.

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  • Typical capitalistic numpties blaming the individuals psychological well being rather than the environment and external conditions. We're not in the army and NHS England you are the one that are sick if you think this will work.

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  • It's not the amount of money that is in focus here, it is how it much has been wasted in recent years on initiatives that just allow NHS Trusts to tick a box.

    The sort of psychological wellbeing programme being offered at Pennine Care FT, which is based on actual evidence (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy online courses, delivered by a Finnish organisation led by psychologists) and proof of efficacy, is the way to go. Offering the usual mix of 'alternative therapies' and well meaning programmes (stop smoking, lose weight, eat better), just will not have an impact....we know this because they never have.

    Let's roll out self-management programmes that are based on scientific evidence.

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  • Fully agree with second comment above: proper, long-term strategies, NOT just quick fixes: where are the politicians and policy-makers who have any real commitment to this?
    Also, how many nurses actually have the time to take a sufficiently long break to walk over to the canteen, join the usual queue, and digest a healthy meal, even if one is available? The only answer I ever found was to bring a packed sandwich from home: healthy enough, but no real enjoyment in gobbling it down fast, in order to be able to return to my patients. A proper 45 minute lunch break, in a 12-13 hour shift, should not be too much to ask, should it?

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  • Absolutely agree with all comments. Just goes to show how little they know and think about our daily issues in nursing. Shoving a bag of crisps in our gobs while getting a 10 minute lunch break at 3pm is often the only luxury we get!!!
    Next 'The government look to perminantly insert brooms up nurse's rectums.'

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  • Our Trust hold things like yoga classes & "Mindfulness" training for staff, but these take place at LUNCHTIMES! Who the heck has time for these things, when there's barely enough time to eat lunch as it is??

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  • I totally agree with the first comment about the well being of staff.I work in an independent hospital and staff are not paid for the first 3 days of sickness.The staff come to work with all sorts of ailments not performing as they should because they cannot afford to lose their wages.I find this very unfair and lacks care and compassion.

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  • Staff need to be given access to better quality breaks in a shift.
    We preach to our patients to drink more fluid, but as a nurse we don't get time to drink,

    15 minute break to down a scalding hot cup of tea, if that, sometimes not even that,
    1 hour break in a twekeve hour shift, and go home with a banging headache, dehydrated and urine output less less than what our patient's have output all day, and often that diluted it glows in the dark. That's an area the nhs needs to also focus on to improve our health.

    More access to fluids for staff.

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  • Agree with the comment about the programme based on evidence posted at 10.12 today...running the likes of mindfulness classes and relaxation is all well and good, but it will achieve nothing.

    I'd be interested to hear more about the programme at Pennine is it delivered and how do staff access it?

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