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Pennine trust offering staff online therapy for stress


Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust is pioneering an online therapy programme to support its workforce to cope with workplace stress.

The programme, called Shift Your Stress, is an online five-week course using “acceptance and commitment therapy”, a progression of cognitive behavioural therapy.

“We know that mental health issues are among the highest causes of staff absence nationally within the NHS”

Katie Kray

Pennine Care is the first trust in England to provide the approach, which involves mindfulness exercises and values clarification, via its staff wellbeing service.

The trust said it wanted to maximise access to therapeutic intervention for its approximately 6,000 employees.

The programme is available at any time convenient to the user, supporting staff working shifts and with family commitments.

In addition, it does not require individuals to meet with their manager, occupational health, or counsellor – referral is made directly to the trust’s staff wellbeing service.

Katie Kay, manager of Pennine Care’s staff wellbeing service, said: “We know that mental health issues are among the highest causes of staff absence nationally within the NHS and can also impact on our staff’s ability to perform in their jobs.

“We are pleased to be able to offer the online Shift Your Stress programme as another form of support,” she said.

The programme offers a “ground-breaking alternative approach” to workplace stress management, according to the company providing it.

The Anglo-Finnish company Headsted said the approach was based on robust research supported methods, and provided new and effective ways to handle stressful thoughts and situations.

The service has been shortlisted for a Nursing Times award in the “improving staff experience” category.


Readers' comments (19)

  • Sounds like there is a Trust finally prioritising the psychological health of their workforce...well done Pennine Care!

    It would be really good to hear more details of the programme and a little more about the supplier of the software.

    Anyone know anything about 'Headsted'?

    Hope other Trusts are taking notice.

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  • I won't hold my breath waiting for other trusts.

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  • Many Trusts will recognise the potential benefits for their finances if programmes like this can reduce the sickness and absence bill.

    Personally, I don't think it matters why Trusts provide this type of support to staff, what matters is that they do something beyond the usually restrictive occupational health process.

    Is the NT going to look into the Pennine programme further?

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  • How fascinating! Pennine Care have identified that workplace stress is a significant issue for the organisation and its 6,000 employees, so what does it do? It effectively transfers the responsibility for dealing with this workplace stress back on its employees by telling them to go and do a mindfulness course.
    If I was an employee here I would be insulted by the notion that if I am experiencing high levels of stress due to work I just need to toughen up, learn to cope and chill out.
    I would question the robust research around this approach. There is a body of knowledge on workplace stress that the academic community have compiled over the last two decades that overwhelmingly calls for a workplace to diagnose the drivers of stress within its organisation and to intervene at a primary level to eliminate or minimise the causes of stress.
    The stress we experience at work is a consequence of the way the workplace is organised, managed and lead, and there are almost always ways of reducing the stressors that employees are subjected to.
    We need to change the conversation on workplace stress and stop letting companies off the hook for the mental wellbeing of their employees by providing another training course. Organisations have a legal and moral accountability for their employees mental health, and they are responsible for creating the stress that their people suffer. It would seem that the obvious answer to the issue is for the organisation to address the stress they have created and stop putting the responsibility for dealing with stress back on its staff.

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  • I think this is great news, ACT is a therapeutic approach that is gaining great recognition - I understand that it's starting to be offered in different IAPT services now. This is the first time I have heard of an NHS Trust providing an approach like this, it can only be seen as a positive for those that work at Pennine.
    Alan I understand your scepticism but in my view this is really not about the Trust offloading their responsibility, surely it's much more about offering stressed out staff a support in a different way.
    It would be really good to see a article here that told us more about the programme and the Finnish company who have developed this.

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  • In my experience, staff (but men in particular) in the NHS are very, very reluctant to contact Staff Counselling Services no matter how bad things get.

    I know so many nurses who have struggled and despaired before going long term sick.

    If this new initiative can provide a meaningful way for people to get support then it will be great. If it was me, I'd rather have this type of therapy than face-to-face counselling. Is this going to be rolled out elsewhere?

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  • Looking at the Headsted website, it looks like they have the backing of some heavyweight academics,

    Maybe the Trust will make this available to the who Devo Manc region :-)

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  • Is this designed for only people working in health, or is it suitable for all disciplines?Wondering if care staff employed by Local Authorities can get involved.

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  • Typical piece of NHS management victim blaming: do nothing about the working conditions which cause stress and get the stressed person to do the latest flavour-of-the-month panacea.

    The evidence base for mindfulness is not as good as its proponents try to tell us and nowhere near as good as much of the credulous reporting by mainstream media would have us believe...And certainly does nothing to change poor working conditions.

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  • Basket, it seems to me that this is at least one Trust trying to support their staff. If the programme helps to identify a need or demand, and even help to recognise specific areas of difficulty, sure this is a good thing isn't it?

    As far as I can tell, ACT isn't 'mindfulness' per se, although it has aspects of mindfulness within it. The evidence based for ACT is quite compelling.

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