Only half of NHS trusts have a mental wellbeing policy

NHS nurse attending to a patient
Photo: REX/Photofusion

More than half (57%) of NHS trusts in England have a mental wellbeing policy in place to support their staff, the latest audit by the Royal College of Physicians’ (RCP) Health and Work Development Unit has found.

Nearly three-quarters (73%) of trusts in England took part in the Implementing NICE public health guidance for the workplace: a national organisational audit of NHS trusts in England – covering more than 860,000 staff.

The audit measured how NHS trusts were progressing with the implementation of National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s (NICE) guidance for key public health topics, including obesity, smoking cessation, physical activity, long-term sickness absence and promoting mental wellbeing.

It found that at board level, there is an awareness of staff health and wellbeing. All but two of the NHS trusts that took part had allocated a board lead for staff health and wellbeing, usually the HR director.

However, fewer than half of all trust boards considered long-term sickness absence alongside the health and wellbeing data, meaning they were unlikely to be able to make a link between the two.

Of equal concern was the finding that nearly a quarter of NHS trusts (24%) did not monitor their staff’s mental wellbeing at all, said the RCP.

Only 28% of trusts had a plan to tackle staff obesity levels. While 76% of organisations offered healthy food choices in staff restaurants, only 27% also offered healthy food choices to those working night shifts.

However, the audit found that there was some progress when it came to obesity – in 2010 only 13% of trusts had a plan for obesity, but this had risen to 28% in 2013.

Dr Siân Williams, clinical director of the unit, said: “The round-two audit results show that there is acknowledgement of the importance of staff health and wellbeing in the NHS, but they also show that there is wide variation and progress is slow.

“This is concerning, given the evidence that NHS staff health influences patient outcomes – for example, infection rates. There is room for improvement to ensure that organisations are providing the best support for their staff.”

She added: “The NICE guidance that we measured against is evidence based, and so is a very good place to start for NHS trusts developing staff health and wellbeing strategies. In fact, I would urge all trusts to familiarise themselves with it, because we anticipate further guidance from NICE about public health and the workplace next year.”

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