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  • Data gathering and analysis
  • Strategic decision making
  • Sound investments



Supporting workforce wellbeing in the NHS has evolved significantly across the past 15 years, moving beyond perks and token gestures and towards developing and implementing comprehensive health and wellbeing strategies.

A robust health and wellbeing strategy is central to driving meaningful change at work. It helps create a supportive environment for staff to perform at their best, remain motivated and engaged, and to reduce costs associated with high turnover and sickness absence.


Working well, living better

In April 2022, Mersey and West Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (MWL)* published their health and wellbeing operational plan. This followed acknowledgement, investment and commitment from the trust board and senior executive team to support and promote staff health and wellbeing. Developed around two models of support for staff (empowerment and self-help, and employer and leadership teams) and seven areas of wellbeing (spiritual, social, emotional, psychological, physical, environmental and financial), the plan supports staff to work together to provide a safe, healthy and well led culture; enabling them to thrive and bring their whole selves to work in order to provide outstanding patient led care.

The plan encompasses all aspects of MWL’s approach to creating and sustaining a culture of wellbeing within the trust. This includes education and awareness programmes, training and support for managers, help in developing personal resilience, access to professional clinical support and various policies around stress and wellbeing, menopause and sickness absence. One example of positive change is the inclusion of a wellbeing section in all staff appraisals. Staff are asked whether they had an opportunity to talk about their wellbeing in the past year and are encouraged to include a wellbeing objective for the 12 months ahead.

Adam Hodkinson, assistant director of health, work and wellbeing, said: "Establishing a health and wellbeing model within the trust has ensured a shared vision and objectives to support staff wellbeing, and has been crucial in driving forward focus and investment into workplace wellbeing strategies". Adam continued: "Our plan has also shifted understanding within the trust that it is everyone’s responsibility to progress this agenda".


Wellbeing dashboard

Using data insights to measure impact ensures organisations are aligning and updating their health and wellbeing objectives effectively as priorities evolve, and staff needs change. Monitoring data is essential to understanding staff wellbeing within an organisation, and can help shift focus from reactive interventions to preventative measures.

To go alongside the trust's health and wellbeing operational plan, a bi-annual report is produced to gather insight and empirical assessments of the impact the plan has had at an organisational and local level. The report is championed by the trust’s wellbeing guardian who is a non-executive director and chair of the wellbeing community.

Data is gathered through the trust’s staff survey, wellbeing hub surveys, sickness absence data, occupational health data, providers of services data, accidents and incidences data and assessments of staff mental health. Then, using NHS England's (NHSE) health and wellbeing framework audit tool, MWL measures improvement against each element of NHSE's Health and Wellbeing Framework to identify trends, key movements in performance and highlight priorities going into the next period.

Adam said: "Gathering data and undertaking robust analysis has been fundamental for us being able to identify where to focus health and wellbeing interventions, and what form they should take to support the diverse needs of our workforce".

MWL found that measuring the impact of actions undertaken meant interventions could be expanded, adapted or stopped if they were not having the desired effect. It has enabled support for staff to be tailored and better targeted and has informed wellbeing investments. For example, 46% of staff at MWL were reporting experiencing a muscular-skeletal problem for over 12 weeks, which was 5.2% above the national average. Through a targeted campaign and promotion on various intranet channels, the trust increased awareness of the physiotherapy service available to staff and has subsequently seen an increase in treatment referrals. As a result, in the first six months, the trust saw pain reduced by an average of 62% and mobility increase by an average of 22% for those who accessed the service.



MWL recognises its responsibility for the health and wellbeing of its staff and has implemented a holistic and informed approach to health and wellbeing that supports staff both during and outside of working hours.

The trust's wellbeing network, comprised of the trust's wellbeing champions, wellbeing guardian, people networks and people governance committees, has been an important catalyst for driving forward the organisational and cultural support for staff wellbeing. The return on investment highlighted in the wellbeing dashboard has ensured continued investment and commitment from the trust board.

As a result, MWL was the top performing trust in the Northwest and Cheshire and Merseyside regions for the 2022 NHS Staff survey indicator 'We are safe and healthy'. Additionally, the trust has seen long-term sickness absence reduced by more than 4% between 2021 and 2022, and there has been a 114% increase in staff accessing a session or event focused on supporting health and wellbeing.


*St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (STHK) joined together with the former Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust to become Mersey and West Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (MWL) in July 2023. Any reference to strategy and procedures prior to 1 July 2023, is representative of work undertaken by the team at STHK, which is now benefiting staff across the newly formed MWL Trust.