- NHS staff should be given tailored mental health support in recognition of the uniquely challenging situations they face every day, Health Secretary will say
- Measures considered include post-trauma support, 24/7 confidential mental health support service and priority access to mental health referrals for NHS employees – as well as improved rest spaces for on-call staff
- Plans deliver on commitment in NHS Long Term Plan to create a better modern working environment for NHS staff and ensure they are fully supported at work
NHS staff should be given immediate access to dedicated mental health support when they need it, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has pledged.
In a speech at East London NHS Foundation Trust later today, the Health Secretary will unveil new plans that could see NHS staff offered targeted interventions when they experience traumatic incidents at work alongside new wellbeing initiatives to improve their day-to-day working environment and support their mental health.
Stress is believed to account for more than 30% of staff sickness absence, costing the NHS up to £400 million every year, according to NHS Employers.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said:
“I love the NHS and have enormous respect and admiration for the dedicated staff who make our health service what it is today. Working under pressure, NHS staff put themselves in some of the most challenging situations imaginable as part of their unwavering commitment to caring for us all. So they deserve unwavering support from us all.
“I’m so proud of the service NHS staff give, so the mental and physical wellbeing of the people who work in our health service must be our utmost priority. Today’s important report helps guide how we can do that, from creating the right culture of support to giving everyone somewhere to turn in the toughest times.
“NHS staff have been there for me, and they have been there for my family – so I’m determined to make sure we are there for them too.”
The initiatives are recommendations by Health Education England in a new report on the mental health and wellbeing of NHS staff and learners, commissioned by the Department last year.
The Long Term Plan for the NHS – backed by an additional £20.5 billion a year by 2023/24 – provides a clear commitment to making the NHS a consistently great place to work. This includes creating a modern employment culture which promotes flexibility, wellbeing and career development to properly value current NHS staff.
Matt Hancock will today highlight his personal commitment to transforming that culture, with a potential new package of support for staff which includes:
- Post-incident support for NHS frontline staff, which could include peer group support or a more formal psychological assessment, building on best practice from the ambulance service ‘Trauma Risk Management’ programmes
- The development of a dedicated mental health support service, to give staff confidential advice and support 24 hours a day if they’ve faced a stressful incident at work. This would be staffed by qualified professionals whose training is tailored to understand the specific circumstances of clinical life
- Fast-tracked mental health referrals for NHS employees if requested as a priority from either a GP or an occupational health clinician
- Improved rest spaces for on-call staff and trainees during and after their shifts, providing security, shower facilities and refreshments
- An NHS Workforce Wellbeing Guardian in every NHS organisation, who would be responsible for championing mental health and wellbeing support for staff and delivering positive change
The measures outlined today should help NHS organisations make positive progress on sickness absence rates, staff performance and retention. The latest NHS staff survey showed that currently fewer than a third of staff felt their organisation took positive action towards improving their health and wellbeing.
The Department has welcomed the Commission’s report and the recommendations will be considered forward as part of the Workforce Implementation Plan led by NHS Improvement Chair Dido Harding and Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust Chief Executive, Julian Hartley.
The report’s leaders heard from staff whose wellbeing had been affected by their experiences in the NHS workplace, as well as talking to family members who had lost relatives through suicide whilst working for the NHS. They also visited organisations who were already demonstrating good practice in supporting staff mental and physical wellbeing to understand how these initiatives could be rolled out across the NHS.
Professor Ian Cumming, Chief Executive, Health Education England said:
“If someone is looking to join the NHS, whether through education and training, an apprenticeship or direct employment, they should be able to see and feel that the health service is bringing to life the statements expressed in the NHS Constitution.
“More support is needed for those who care and better care is needed for those studying to become healthcare professionals. This is why I am committed to making sure that the commission takes full advantage of this opportunity to make a real difference to the NHS health and care workforce and to those studying to become our future healthcare staff.
“It is vital that staff feel they are supported and that employers have the right procedures in place to offer all the help that may be needed. The mental wellbeing of staff contributes positively to patient care so we must get it right.
“As a caring and compassionate organisation, the NHS attracts staff with these values, but it must be recognised that in giving care you also absorb some of the concerns and issues of the people that you are caring for. We must do better for those in the caring professions. And we must care better for those studying to be professionals. This Commission will make that happen.”