Support for staff wellbeing is a sound investment given it helps sustain a happy and healthy workforce and leads to better patient outcomes (Teoh et al, 2023).

The case studies in this report highlight some of the local initiatives trusts have deployed to support their staff through the current challenges of working in the NHS. They demonstrate the benefits, to both staff and employers, of creating working environments which actively promote wellbeing. The key themes explored include:

Compassionate and inclusive cultures

Ensuring staff are respected and listened to is key to fostering a supportive environment that enables wellbeing. A compassionate and inclusive organisational culture not only means staff feel valued at work, but they are also more likely to feel satisfied in their jobs and committed to their organisations (Lilius et al, 2013). In this publication, we explore how Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust has implemented the ‘Building a fairer Oxleas five step challenge' which is empowering staff to be agents of change and embed inclusive cultures within the trust.

By demonstrating openness and inclusivity, leaders improve psychological safety within their organisations. This is also key to ensuring effective speaking up processes. Research has found that organisations which specifically promote a healthy speaking up culture contribute to a more diverse and accepting workplace, supporting staff wellbeing and leading to better outcomes for patients (Okuyama et al, 2014). East of England Ambulance Service has worked to repair trust and improve confidence among staff that concerns will be responded to, resulting in a 900% increase in staff raising concerns.


Enhancing physical environments

The physical environments in which employees spend their working hours are an important factor in job satisfaction and safety, impacting on motivation and morale. Features of a healthy workplace that allow staff to function well include access to an appropriate rest area, and an environment that is well maintained and equipped (Public Health England, 2015). To support staff wellbeing and productivity, investment in adequate break spaces that remain protected for staff-only use is vital. This can often be challenging within constrained NHS budgets and for services where staff are dispersed across multiple sites or locations, but many trusts are seeking to use their estate to best effect to support staff and patients. Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust is one such example, and they spoke to us about the success of their dedicated staff health and wellbeing centre.


Supporting mental wellbeing

Many risks to people’s health and wellbeing at work are psychological. In 2022, 44.8% of NHS staff reported feeling unwell due to work-related stress (NHS Staff Survey, 2023), and stress, anxiety and depression continue to be the most common reasons for NHS staff sickness absence (NHS Digital, 2023a). Supporting mental wellbeing is not only vital for staff to be able to remain in work, but research has shown employers obtain a return of £5 for every £1 invested in staff mental health, as a result of reduced turnover, sickness absence and other organisational costs (Deloitte, 2020). In line with this, Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has seen demonstrable benefits from its investment in staff access to mental health practitioners.


A sense of belonging for all staff

Metrics across different protected characteristics show NHS staff currently have inequitable experiences at work. Workplace exclusion and unfair treatment impacts employee wellbeing and sense of belonging (Song X and Guo S, 2022). It is essential that all staff feel part of a team and organisation which is respectful and values their unique skills, experiences and perspectives. Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust recognised the importance of this and has addressed inequalities that staff face to notable effect.


Measuring impact and making informed investments

To ensure wellbeing interventions are effective, they must be continually monitored, analysed, and adjusted as necessary to ensure they have the greatest possible impact for colleagues. An insight led approach is essential to meaningfully improving staff experience at work (Teoh et al, 2023). This is how Mersey and West Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust has approached its Working well, living better health and wellbeing operational plan, yielding a 4% reduction in long-term sickness absence between 2021 and 2022.


This report shows just some of the ways in which trusts are adapting to and providing for changing staff needs within a difficult operational context. Continual innovation in the face of challenges has always characterised the NHS, and this is true for its approach to staff wellbeing as well as other areas.