Prioritising staff health and wellbeing during some of the most challenging years in the NHS

Published: 27 April 2022 to 31 December 2098

The greatest asset of any organisation is its people; you don’t need to look further than our Trust – or the wider NHS, of course – to find evidence of that. Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, it became apparent that our fantastic staff were going to be dealing with unprecedented challenges. We knew we needed to enhance our health and wellbeing policies to help protect them, as a result.

 

While our existing employee support strategies were substantial, they weren’t tailored to the situation we faced from March 2020 onwards. We wanted to add to these policies, both to boost morale and to help ensure uninterrupted service delivery for our patients. And as the scale of the crisis unfolded, we knew a long-term strategy would be required.

 

With the pandemic lasting longer than many of us may have initially realised, this increased focus on staff health and morale turned out to be vital.

 

2020

 

Ensuring every member of the team felt valued was imperative. We wanted to make a difference to how our team members felt on a daily basis, as they came into work each day and provided care to patients, their families and carers in an entirely unprecedented situation.

From the outset, we aimed to make staff feel supported with a combination of practical help, such as health and wellbeing support, accessible guidance and workshops, as well as through smaller, simpler acts of kindness and appreciation.

 

In March 2020, with the support of our Trust charity, Health Stars, we arranged weekly food parcel deliveries to our clinical services. The following month was the launch of the ShinyMind app within the Trust, which aims to empower staff, featuring more than 100 exercises and masterclasses to help boost mental wellbeing.

 

Each month throughout the year, we then launched a new initiative that had staff wellbeing at its core. In May, we offered ‘Revive’ pamper packages to our clinical teams, which included items such as intensive hand cream for those suffering with dry hands as a result of additional infection prevention techniques. In June, we launched our MSK self-referral scheme which aimed to support staff who were feeling the effects of working from home.

 

In July, we held our first Staff Wellbeing Week, where we shared daily content and resources, aimed at giving employees the tools they needed to support their health at work.

 

Also in July 2020, we issued a staff survey, asking every colleague how they would like to celebrate the Trust and its achievements that year. Traditionally, we hold an annual staff awards ceremony.

 

Two thirds of them told us they’d like a thank you pack in place of an in-person ceremony, and that they’d appreciate a voucher to be sent to staff as a gift. In October, all permanent and active bank staff were sent a letter and voucher to their home address.

 

Throughout the year, employees received relevant and easy to understand communications, to help them stay up to date with the latest guidance, specifically tailored to their areas of work within the NHS. Initially, these communications were as frequent as twice a day, to keep staff informed and supported in the ever-changing landscape.

Our Communications team also supported services to tell their stories of positivity during an otherwise challenging period in a book called ‘Together We Can’. The aim of this publication was to showcase tales of hope, and to demonstrate the resilience of NHS services even when under unimaginable pressure. The book raised money for our Trust Charity, Health Stars, allowing them to provide enhanced support our services at this time, and included artwork from staff, service users and families, with a competition held for the front cover design.

 

 

2021

  

Feedback on our health and wellbeing initiatives in 2020 was extremely positive and helped shape our programme as we entered the second year of the pandemic.

 

We continued with a full calendar of activity that encompassed practical support as well as smaller tokens to show appreciation of our colleagues’ resilience, resolve and dedication.

 

In June 2021, we launched our ‘You’re a Star Fund’ - a direct response to staff feedback that highlighted the importance of recognising individual contributions. Each team across the Trust was allocated funds to plan and host an event at a time and place that was right for them. We then celebrated the different activities in our ‘Staff Thank You and Celebration Week’ in September.

 

The ‘Thank you and Celebration Week’ was our first-ever virtual, week-long event, which hailed the achievements of all staff in supporting our patients and their families - and importantly, each other, over the previous 18 months.

 

Throughout the week, we focused on a different location each day: from Extraordinary East Riding to Super Scarborough, Heroic Hull and Wonderful Whitby – good news stories and achievements from each area were collated and shared across the Trust. The week culminated with a virtual lunch and a general knowledge quiz.

 

Health initiatives launched last year included a nine-week challenge, Virgin Pulse GO, to help staff get more active. In August, our Occupational Health team launched their first menopause awareness session and support group for staff. In November, as part of Men’s Health Awareness Month, our Staff and Volunteer Health Trainer Service held wellbeing clinics for our male colleagues.

 

Alongside the events, there was activity each month as part of our ongoing reward and support programme. This included: all staff being given their birthday off as an additional day of annual leave; for ‘Random Act of Kindness Week’, staff being encouraged to nominate a colleague to receive a gift, with winners to receiving a letterbox gift containing brownies, and to mark the NHS’s 73rd birthday, every member of staff received a branded tote bag containing a thank you card and cake bar.

 

 

Looking ahead in 2022

 

As we work through a period of recovery, we continue to feel proud of, and inspired by, the contribution of our workforce, of our wonderful volunteers, and of our Trust Charity, Health Stars. Without their help and support, many of the initiatives would not have been possible.

 

Staff wellbeing will always be a priority for the Trust, and the last two years have underlined the importance of it being at the heart of any operational strategy. And while there’s a sense that, collectively, the nation is ‘coming out the other side’ of the pandemic, challenges remain. We continue to work to protect our greatest asset – it is only because of them that the Trust can deliver high standards of care, 365 days a year.

 

Michele Moran, Chief Executive, Humber Teaching NHS Foundation Trust

 

 

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