NHS trusts are working closely with their staff to understand how they can best support them at this challenging time. We know that regular and responsive communication with staff is essential during the coronavirus outbreak, and trusts have taken innovative, compassionate and reactive approaches to prioritise the wellbeing of their staff.
Stepping away from simply sending out surveys to ask for peoples’ feedback, particularly at a time where the wellbeing and interactions of the workforce has never been so critical, Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (SFHFT) chose to take a more person-centred and inclusive approach to listen, understand and socialise colleague experience of COVID.
In discussion with the local university, SFHFT developed a framework that would provide safe, supportive spaces to learn from COVID. The framework was targeted at both listening and learning of colleague experience at a personal and organisational level. This involved dedicated focus groups with 600+ colleagues, an online survey which had over 1,100 responses, feedback from team conversations through a new managers pack, conversations in our new SFHFT wellbeing dens, closed Facebook group and introduction of My COVID story where colleagues were invited to be filmed to share their story of working and living during COVID.
The trust’s Learning from COVID (so far) approach has provided rich insight and feedback that standard surveys cannot provide. Following their learning and engagement, SFHFT has committed to a set of actions that through You said, together we did they will socialise and regularly report back progress on where colleagues said they did well and where they need to do better.
Their approach to learning in this way has told the trust that online surveys have a place, yet richer, more meaningful dialogue comes from creating a safe space where colleagues can feedback and we can be curious and support each other in that moment. This is something that that they intend to now build into our regular programme of engagement.
At the end of May, Sherwood Forest Hospitals invited staff to participate in a living history project by sharing their ‘COVID story’. The aim was to capture the personal and professional impact of the pandemic and any learning for the organisation, contributing to the trust’s evaluation of its COVID response.
In addition to 40 video stories, colleagues submitted written reflections and images of their experiences. The clinical illustration team also captured doorstep portraits of staff shielding, on stand-by or working at home.
Any member of staff could volunteer, they were simply asked to share experiences of the pandemic – positive or negative, personal or professional. Volunteers came from a varied group in terms of age, experience with the trust and professional background.
The health and wellbeing offer available from Lincolnshire Community Health Services (LCHS) was enhanced to support their people to meet their needs during this challenging time. Their offer included the launch of the health and wellbeing COVID-19 helpline. The helpline brought together a range of dedicated redeployed staff from across the Lincolnshire NHS system with one aim - to support their colleagues, during these unprecedented times.
The helpline has created a system-wellbeing approach to share ideas and best practice by sharing experiences. The helpline has also brought together a range of services and experts from across the system, forming part of their offer, much to the benefit of their people. Ceri Lennon, director of people and innovation at LCHS said: “The health and wellbeing of our people has never been more important as we respond and continue to deliver essential care and services to our communities. To deliver services to some of the most vulnerable people living in Lincolnshire, it is essential that our own staff have good emotional health and wellbeing in the face of often difficult and challenging situations. The comprehensive help and support available for all our people and the feedback we have gained, has provided valuable learning to enhance the services we provide to our and the opportunity to share experiences across the NHS in Lincolnshire to the benefit of staff and patients.”
The CareCafe, was established in mid-April 2020 March 2020 as an area for staff to take a break, have a drink/refreshment and take some time out from their work area. It was stocked by donations from the local community/business and is open five days a week.
The Open Office was opened at the end of April, located along the corridor in the main hospital block and easily accessible for most of the clinical/ward areas. It is a drop-in listening service to support staff wellbeing, open seven days a week from 10am-12pm and 2pm-4pm, staffed by Kettering General Hospital employees who have specialist interest in or experience of mental health/wellbeing and who were released from their formal roles to fulfil shifts on the rota, or whose role adapted to wellbeing needs to incorporate this work as part of their role.
Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust put together a number of new services to support staff wellbeing and engagement through the pandemic, including:
The exceptional work that staff have done during the pandemic has been supported by Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust’s AWISH (advice, wellbeing, information and self-help) initiative.
The trust have brought together psychological, spiritual, workforce, communications and organisational development expertise to develop support for staff wellbeing within the trust and also externally across the wider system in the North East and Cumbria.
Psychological professionals worked in partnership with colleagues and experts by experience to develop a range of support structures and tools. These included: