Supporting staff


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:

  • Trusts are developing a range of initiatives to support staff with caring responsibilities who are impacted by coronavirus and associated self-isolation policies, such as offering additional days of carers’ leave on full pay.
  • Many trusts are offering free or subsidised food for staff at this time, and a number are offering free car parking. We know of at least one innovative trust which is in dialogue with local supermarkets to provide pop up stores onsite for staff
  • Some trusts are exploring how they might develop crèches to support staff with young families to continue working
  • In some local areas such as Gloucestershire, universities, private schools and other facilities are offering free accommodation to NHS staff whose households are self-isolating and therefore need to live away from home in order to keep working.
  • Some trusts are creating e-learning resources to upskill their workforce on respiratory care (e.g. Gloucestershire).
  • Royal Berkshire NHS foundation trust is building its own emergency accommodation for staff. The 'Olympic Village' should have 40 en suite rooms ready by the end of the week.
  • Many trusts have set up staff wellbeing pages with mindfulness, aromatherapy, staff support lines, and more to their staff through the pandemic.
  • The HSJ reports that trusts are using apps from financial tech companies to allow employees to draw down a portion of their pay on a daily basis. This move is intended to mitigate cash flow issues faced by workers on lower pay bands.
  • The Oxford University Mindfulness Centre is providing brief evening online sessions where you can learn skills that will support you in remaining steady and taking care of yourself during these challenging times.
  • Watford FC has made its stadium capacity available to West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust. Space in the stadium will be used for training areas for nurses, bedrooms and counselling rooms. A dining area will be set up to feed estimated 500 people per day, and additional space will be used to take pressure off Watford General Hospital’s maternity services.
  • The University of Roehampton is partnering with a range of trusts to conduct a nationwide COVIDA study about the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the mental wellbeing of healthcare professionals. Their survey asks about the psychological impact the COVID crisis on NHS & non-NHS healthcare professionals (including social care), PPE availability, experience of stressful events, and concerns about staff wellbeing.
  • Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust is training 250 volunteer mental health first aiders to support the wellbeing of colleagues during the pandemic.


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.


NHS Professionals rapid response service

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.   


Freedom to speak 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.






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