NHS trusts are working closely with their staff to understand how they can best support them at this challenging time. They want to protect their staff physically and keep them safe with the right equipment, support their wellbeing, and enable them to keep working while they are fit and well. New research has been published on the mental health implications among health care workers exposed to COVID-19 in China. Findings from the study suggest health care workers have a high risk of developing unfavourable mental health outcomes and may need psychological support or interventions as a consequence.
NHS England and Improvement has released a new package of materials and support services to help staff manage their own health and wellbeing while looking after others. The Our NHS people initiative includes a free seven-day a week wellbeing support helpline and text service for staff as well as online peer to peer, team and personal resilience support through web and app based services including Silver Cloud, Unmind, Headspace, Sleepio and Daylight. Mental health support services for staff are being reviewed and developed by an expert advisory group to the NHS.
The initiatives below provide some helpful examples of how trusts and their local communities are rallying around the NHS workforce:
Regular and responsive communication with staff is essential during the coronavirus outbreak. Trusts are working hard to communicate with teams both virtually and, where appropriate, in care settings. National NHS bodies are also developing innovative communication methods to deliver the right message to staff and patients, such as NHS Scotland’s helpful infographic. Trust boards are using virtual methods to stay in touch with their non-executive directors and governors, such as this excellent video from Paul Devlin, chair of Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.
In collaboration with NHSE/I and DHSC, NHS Professionals has launched a COVID-19 rapid response service to provide a temporary employment route and quick deployment service for new and returning registered NHS staff. This will support national efforts during the pandemic to bring to the NHS tens of thousands of clinicians who are either in the latter stages of study, or have retired or allowed their registration to lapse in the past three years.
NHS Professionals, which is the largest staff bank/agency service and a wholly owned subsidiary of the DHSC, has published this flier describing the benefits of this service, including the aim to rapidly recruit and deploy experienced healthcare workers, and those currently studying to any Trust within 24 hours, alongside details for trusts wishing to sign up.
The safety of staff and patients is a priority for trust leaders, now more than ever as services face a unique set of pressures presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, and many are refocusing their efforts on encouraging a supportive culture where staff feel able to raise concerns during this time. We know that improvements are made to staff experience and patient care when staff feel empowered to speak up. Common steps that trusts are taking include: ensuring their freedom to speak up guardian is adequately supported by colleagues (ranging from the non-executive director with board level responsibility for the trust’s speaking up culture to peers who some trusts have appointed to take on a 'champion' role) to carry out their role effectively; convening additional meetings and focus groups that bring together the freedom to speak up guardian, staff, HR and board members; and having their freedom to speak up guardian attend one of the latest board meetings to report to the trust board directly.