Government pledges better mental health and wellbeing support for NHS staff

The Department of Health and Social Care claims the plans will make a positive change to sickness absence rates, staff performance and retention.

Matt Bodell
20 February 2019
health and wellbeing support for NHS staff

Plans to give staff immediate access to dedicated mental health support will be part of the upcoming workforce implementation plan.

The Department for Health and Social Care has set out new plans to provide better mental health and wellbeing support to NHS staff.

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The new support will be based on recommendations by Health Education England (HEE) and includes; post-incident support for NHS frontline staff, a dedicated mental health support service giving confidential advice and support 24 hours a day and fast track mental health referrals.

Further pledging to offer improved staff and on-call rooms with shower facilities and refreshments.

HEE made the recommendations in its report on the mental health and wellbeing of NHS staff and learners, commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care last year.

The Department of Health claims the changes should help NHS organisations make positive progress on sickness absence rates, staff performance and retention.

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‘Giving everyone somewhere to turn’.

The latest NHS staff survey showed that less than a third of staff felt their organisation took positive action towards improving their health and wellbeing.

Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, said: “I love the NHS and have enormous respect and admiration for the dedicated staff who make our health service what it is today. Working under pressure, NHS staff put themselves in some of the most challenging situations imaginable as part of their unwavering commitment to caring for us all. So they deserve unwavering support from us all.

“I’m so proud of the service NHS staff give, so the mental and physical wellbeing of the people who work in our health service must be our utmost priority. Today’s important report helps guide how we can do that, from creating the right culture of support to giving everyone somewhere to turn in the toughest times.

“NHS staff have been there for me, and they have been there for my family – so I’m determined to make sure we are there for them too.”

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‘No substitute for staff’.

The Royal College of Nursing has said that while the physical and mental health is important, “there is no substitute for having the right number of nurses in the right place at the right time”. 

Dame Donna Kinnair, Acting Chief Executive & General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing said: “Nursing staff are working in ever more pressurised environments and we know that their physical and mental health can sometimes suffer as a result, leaving them with little in the tank to care for themselves. The government is right to recognise this as an issue and to commit to providing support for those in difficulty.

“Safe staffing is about effectively meeting the clinical needs of patients, but for staff, it also means being able to take proper rests, eat and stay hydrated.”

UNISON says the plans are a step in the right direction but adds “far-reaching reforms are also necessary, including proper breaks, manageable workloads, and protection from abuse and attack.”  

Sara Gorton, UNISON’s Head of Health, adds; “The mental health needs of staff should be a priority. They’re working long hours, in highly stressful conditions, often without a rest.

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“NHS workers can’t help patients get better unless they are well too. Proper solutions are needed though, not quick fixes.

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