NHS England has set up a “national incentive fund” worth £450 million for 2016/17, which trusts and other healthcare providers will be able to access if they can show they are investing in staff health and wellbeing initiatives.
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said trusts and providers will be able to earn their share of the fund if they:
- offer front-line nurses, therapists, doctors, care assistants and other staff access to workplace physiotherapy, mental health support and healthy workplace options. The annual NHS staff survey will track the increase in NHS workers saying that their trust is taking positive action to support their health and wellbeing, and reduce work-related stress and back injuries.
- take action on junk food and obesity by ensuring healthy food options are available for their staff and visitors, including those working night shifts. To qualify for the scheme, trusts will need to remove adverts, price promotions and checkout displays of sugary drinks and high fat, sugar and salt food from their NHS premises. They will also be required to submit information on their current fast-food franchises, vending machines and retail outlets in preparation for the introduction of the “sugar tax”.
- increase the uptake of the winter flu vaccine for their staff so as to reduce sickness absence and protect vulnerable patients from infection. The aim is to increase employee vaccination rates from about 50% to nearer to 75%.
Stevens said: “As the largest employer in Europe, the NHS needs to practice what it preaches by offering better support for the health and wellbeing of our 1.3 million staff. “A good place to start is by tackling the sources of employee sickness absence, including mental health and musculoskeletal injuries, while doing our bit to end the nation’s obesity epidemic by ditching junk food and sugary drinks in place of tasty, healthy and affordable alternatives.”
The latest move follows the launch in September of a multi-million pound campaign to improve the health, fitness and wellbeing of NHS staff in England.
Meanwhile, the latest figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre have shown that NHS staff sickness absence in England declined over the past year.
The statistics showed that sickness was running at 4.3% in November 2015, compared with 4.48% at the same point the year before.
The lowest sickness rate of any group for November 2015 was nursing, midwifery and health visiting learners, at 0.78%, and the highest groups were healthcare assistants and other support staff, at 6.47%.
The North-West London HEE region and North, Central and East London had the lowest regional sickness absence, at 3.41% for November 2015, and the North-West HEE region had the highest figure at 4.96%.
NHS Employers has also launched an online tool, “Everything you need to know about sickness absence”, designed to help managers support staff around sickness absence.