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Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust: we're a healthy staff champion

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Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust reduced sickness absence costs by 55 per cent and improved staff morale by developing a self care scheme.

The organisation

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust provides hospital-based services from three main sites:

  • Alexandra Hospital in Redditch,
  • Kidderminster Hospital and Treatment Centre
  • Worcestershire Royal Hospital in Worcester

The trust provides a wide range of services to a population of around 550,000 in Worcestershire, as well as caring for patients from surrounding counties and further afield. The trust employs more than 5,000 people and has an annual turnover of more than £290 million.

What we did and why

There is a lot of evidence to suggest that individuals recording high levels of short-term absence are likely to continue to be absent in the future. 

Those with high levels of short-term absence were managed through the capability policy, which looks at the existing behaviour, rather than seeking to change the health-related behaviour.

Working with HR and line managers, the trust’s occupational health (OH) team implemented a ‘self care’ course, designed by the Working in Partnership Project to support employees, change behaviour and reduce absence rates.
Offering a supportive, rather than disciplinary approach, the trust’s trainers assisted employees and aimed to change their health belief model, while helping them to improve their own health and well-being at work.

How we did it

Working with the trainers, staff who participated examined individual perceptions of health and were trained in a model of change, confidence, self esteem and stress management, as well as healthy eating and exercise.

Nearly 70 individuals with episodic absence issues attended the course, run by two trainers.

The course offered practical guidance on individual health beliefs and how this might impact behaviour at work, as well as bespoke tools to help improve overall health and well-being.

The course modules included:

  • health and health belief models
  • motivation and making changes
  • self esteem and confidence
  • psychological aspects of health and well-being
  • physical aspects of health and well-being 
  • healthy eating and exercise.

The six interactive modules were run over two days, with review sessions at three, six and twelve months.

Results and next steps

Following the self care course, attendees’ sickness absence costs reduced by an average of 46 per cent in the first 12 months and a further 65 per cent in the second year. This was an annual mean reduction of a 55 per cent.

Staff also reported improved team morale and continuity of patient care during the three-monthly review sessions. 

Individual participants also reported:

  • A member of staff referred for gastric band surgery lost 6 stones in 6 months and has decided not to pursue surgery.
  • An employee who improved his diet significantly, and that of his family, has sustained his nutritional choices.
  • Six months after her course ended, a member of staff who reported her life was “80 per cent in crisis” states it is now manageable most of the time and believes she has the tools to create a better life for herself – continuing to use the course materials when necessary.

The trust sickness absence rate in 2007 stood at 5 per cent, of which over 3 per cent was short term . The overall absence rate in 2008 was 4.84 per cent, of which short-term sickness accounted for 1.97 per cent.  

Ongoing programme

Implementation of the self care course has led to improved outcomes for the trust, staff and patients. 

While the course was designed to deal with short-term issues, it has been found to be very beneficial for those on long-term absence as well and is now offered to those on long-term sick leave. 

Feedback from participants shows how bespoke techniques can help change behaviour and improve health at work by tackling the underlying problems, rather than simply dealing with symptoms.  The impacts are felt not only by staff, but by their families and patients.


The self care course won the 2009 Excellence in Improving Employee Health and Well-being Award at the national Healthcare People Management Association (HPMA) Excellence in Human Resources Management Awards.  Judges praised the course for its supportive approach to staff, which helps them improve their own health and well-being at work.

As a result of the HPMA Award, the OH team has seen a huge increase in inquiries from other trusts and the local community.

September 2011 update

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust have reviewed the data for the first 8 courses which is now available and the average (mean) annual reduction in sickness absence costs is 47.8% for those who have attended the course. This is calculated from sickness costs for the 12 months prior to people attending the course, compared to their costs 12 months after attending and for 3 courses we have the data for the second 12 months after the course, which importantly has shown an ongoing improvement in attendance.

Data for those who have left the Trust since doing the course has been completely excluded, even if they left during the second 12 month period.

The cost savings as calculated above now amounts to £130, 221.79. This includes only the payable salary to the individual and does not include on-costs or staff replacement costs etc.

The Trusts sickness absence level is presently 3.95%

The participants continue to find benefit from the course and 100% of participants have said they would recommend the course to others. The trust have ran the first course to enable other organisations to offer this course to their employees and the feedback has been very positive from this. 


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