Improving mental health support for NHS staff

The NHS is the biggest employer in Europe, and the world’s largest employer of highly skilled professionals. Like many others, governors have expressed concern about the state of the NHS workforce and its ability to deliver on its existing and future commitments.

One in three NHS staff has reported illness due to work-related stress. Poor staff health and wellbeing in NHS provider organisations is associated with poorer-quality patient care, lower levels of patient satisfaction and high levels of absenteeism. The ability of staff to pay close attention to patients, to have empathic responses and take intelligent action to help is detrimentally affected by high and chronic levels of stress.

To help support a recognisable improvement in the way the NHS looks after the wellbeing of the workforce Health Education England have published a report on improving mental health support for NHS staff.

Recommendations include fast-tracked referrals, tailored support sessions after traumatic incidents, rest spaces for on-call staff, a 24/7 advice phone line and the introduction of a “workplace well-being guardian” in every NHS organisation.

Workforce issues are the number one concern for NHS trusts. Staff shortages and rota gaps are increasing the workload and burden for existing staff. As well as increasing the supply of staff, staff retention is an important factor in the long-term workforce picture for the NHS.

What does this mean for governors?

Governors can also use their holding to account duty to ask how the non-executive directors (NEDs) are assured about the implementation of these recommendations and why NEDs are confident on trust plans for staff retention at their council of governor meetings.

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