The sheer expertise and excellence on display meant our judges had an extremely difficult job coming to a decision. But here are the winners of the Occupational Health & Wellbeing Awards 2020.
Covid-19 has made 2020 an immensely challenging year for occupational health. To that end, and perhaps unsurprisingly, responding to the pandemic has been a recurring theme within this year’s Occupational Health & Wellbeing Awards.
The excellence on display across the board also meant our judges had their work cut out. But we do have our six winners, including for the first time a double winner in the shape of Swansea Bay University Health Board.
All have shown immense skill, resilience and creativity in overcoming challenges (especially pandemic-related challenges); driving, effecting and embedding change; and showing evidence of benefit or improvement.
All our winners will receive special winners’ certificates (both digital and physical) and over the coming months will have their team and work profiled online and within the pages of Occupational Health & Wellbeing.
Congratulations to you all, and keep up the good work!
Occupational health team of the year (public sector)
Winner – Swansea Bay University Health Board
Swansea Bay University Health Board’s (SBUHB) occupational health service had historically been delivered through a very traditional, paper-based clinical model, with more than 25,000 records spread across four sites – an inefficient system that was leading to delays and complaints. Because of the national shortage of OH professionals, a rethink was needed to ensure the service was fit for purpose.
SBUHB’s transformation programme involved the creation of a new leadership team, investment in technology and the creation of a wider multidisciplinary team that included allied health professionals, who were upskilled to meet the service’s needs.
Team members undertook training to become wellbeing “champions” and a focus on social events during lunchbreaks and outside of work enabled more cohesive working.
Paper records were abolished, which has facilitated a more timely response to issues and meant cancelled appointments can be reallocated swiftly. Using digital records has also reduced stress levels within the team, as team members have been spending less time locating missing records.
Waiting times have reduced from 12 weeks to two within one year, and reports to line managers are now being sent out within five working days instead of the previous eight weeks. Some reports can even now be sent on the same day as a result of digital dictation and e-processes.
These efficiencies meant an additional 30 staff were able to be deployed to the OH team to meet demand during the Covid-19 pandemic (and see its winning entry for Best multidisciplinary initiative for more on this).
What our judges said: “This entry clearly describes a service transformation. It is impressive to see the ability to manage and train additional staff to support its response to the pandemic, with a resulting clear benefit in reputation, service continuity and positive stakeholder feedback.”
Best mental health initiative
Winner – The Co-op
More than a quarter of the convenience store chain’s workforce work a night shift, putting them at increased risk of mental and physical health problems, addiction, loneliness and financial and relationship issues.
An audit revealed many also felt “forgotten” or “invisible” and had problems sleeping. This prompted the company to take action.
Partnering with the charity The Wellcome Trust and engagement consultancy The Liminal Space, the Co-op developed “Night Club”, which brings together night-time workers with sleep researchers from Oxford University to help improve the quality of their sleep and their wellbeing.
Staff are educated about circadian rhythms, the impact light has on sleep, how diet affects sleep and alertness, and how a lack of sleep affects mental health and the natural body clock, with one-on-one consultations held.
Some 210 sessions have been hosted, engaging with 1,680 colleagues. More than 40 trained “sleep champions” have also been placed across Co-op Logistics to promote the benefits of sleep to their colleagues, and, while still at an early stage, anecdotal evidence has suggested sleep has improved.
What our judges said: “Sleep is hugely underestimated in mental health, and so taking this as both a wellbeing issue and a risk mitigation issue is very helpful. Night workers are also often excluded from wellbeing programmes, so it is really good to see this inclusivity. This programme has been well considered and well delivered. The results and outcomes look impressive thus far.”
Best musculoskeletal initiative
Winner – Bespoke Wellbeing and The Advocacy Project
The charity The Advocacy Project and its physiotherapy supplier Bespoke Wellbeing have worked together to conduct workplace assessments and promote musculoskeletal wellbeing for more than two years.
When, with lockdown, The Advocacy Project’s staff began working from home at short notice, often without sufficient equipment, Bespoke Wellbeing quickly adapted its services (which include treatment of existing conditions as well as preventative measures) to be able to reach employees regardless of their geographical location.
Solutions introduced included a digital home-working guide, remote display screen equipment assessments, webinars to discuss keeping well whilst working from home (including spinal exercises, good working practices and mental health) and regular emails to signpost support materials.
The feedback had been extremely positive and Bespoke Wellbeing’s programme transformed the way at least one employee was able to work. Staff morale, performance and sickness absence rates have all improved since the interventions were brought in.
What our judges said: “This entry took a very proactive approach to addressing an important concern about remote working, including a wide variety of preventative and reactive interventions. The use of follow-up emails to remind employees about the support on offer was also effective in keeping it front of mind.”
Occupational health team of the year (private sector)
Winner – Loughborough University
Loughborough University admitted in its entry that there had previously been a significant gap between its OH service and achieving good practice. The service had no perceived value among employees, low credibility, and was untrusted by its users. The university recognised it faced a mammoth task in building up its credibility again.
The senior leadership team challenged the head of health and safety to develop a “world class” OH function. Dr Steve Boorman was commissioned to identify the improvements needed – as one of the judges of the Occupational Health & Wellbeing Awards, Steve was not involved in the judging of this category.
An occupational health and wellbeing manager was also appointed to lead, stabilise and develop the improved service, which would operate alongside an external provider to meet demand.
One of the main problems tackled was reporting. Referrals were closely monitored and the data showed a three-way split between mental health, musculoskeletal disorders and “other” reasons for referral. This allowed the team to implement issue-specific solutions, such as an on-site physiotherapy service for musculoskeletal disorders and an expansion of the student counselling service to include employees.
Other changes included putting a new employee assistance provider in place, the launch of a health and wellbeing steering group and website, a full health and wellbeing needs assessment for each employee and smoking cessation support. A bespoke mental health and wellbeing programme was also launched when the coronavirus lockdown was imposed.
What our judges said: “This entry showed evidence of a total overhaul of the occupational health service, including an increase in referrals of 300% and success in bringing employees who had been absent from the business for more than two years back to work.”
Best multidisciplinary initiative
Winner – Swansea Bay University Health Board
With only a very small team, the Swansea Bay University Health Board (SBUHB) wellbeing service faced a significant challenge in supporting staff who had been adversely affected by the pandemic. It needed to meet an increased need for support with limited resources, while adhering to Covid-19 restrictions.
As a result, a steering group formed of senior managers from staff wellbeing, counselling, psychology, chaplaincy, learning and development and service improvement decided to re-engineer its wellbeing service.
Firstly, they implemented joint working arrangements, which allowed extended service delivery from 7am to 9pm even days a week, where it had previously been 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Therapists and counsellors then worked together to develop clinical pathways for cases of trauma and bereavement, while the psychology department helped to provide wellbeing support for whole teams and developed a 12-week mindfulness programme.
More than 100 senior staff were trained to use a trauma risk process to help identify early signs of trauma in their teams, with the aim of preventing mental health problems in the future.
SBUHB has now “cemented” joint working within the team and people across different disciplines are now working closely. Its services have raised the profile of the service across the health board and team members have benefited from learning new skills.
What our judges said: “Swansea Bay’s approach to wellbeing during the pandemic was exceptional, considering the small-scale OH service in place. What stands out is the involvement and coordination of a wide range of professionals and the compassionate approach taken for sensitive topics.”
Best wellbeing initiative
Winner – NHS England and NHS Improvement
As the Covid-19 pandemic unfolded, a “workforce cell” was set up within NHS England and NHS Improvement to respond to employees’ physical, emotional and practical needs at a time when demand from and risk of Covid-19 exposure was high.
Its approach was informed by how the service handled other traumatic incidents, such as the 2005 London bombings, with eight workstreams tackling different challenges.
Projects undertaken by these groups included setting up a national helpline to listen and signpost staff to sources of support; developing virtual “common rooms” so staff could offer psychological support to one another, as well as one-on-one support from professionals; providing self-guided learning modules around sleep, resilience, wellbeing and anxiety; understanding the needs of black, Asian and minority ethnic colleagues; and working on a resilience project with the Centre for Army Leadership.
There was a focus on breaking down organisational barriers, and representatives from Public Health England and Health Education England joined to provide data capture, evaluation and to support the development of screening tools for the next steps of recovery planning.
To date, more than 3,000 calls have been made to the helpline, 1,400 text conversations have taken place, and there have been 120,000 downloads of its self-guided learning app and 130,000 visitors to the website.
What our judges said: “This entry showed outstanding work with an in-depth knowledge of the challenges faced. It was expertly prepared for, including removing barriers to delivery and partnering with experts outside of the healthcare arena. A brilliant wellness initiative, shown by the fact it has utilised hundreds of thousands of times.”
Our thanks, as ever, go out to this year’s judging panel for generously giving up their time, insight and expertise. The judges for the 2020 Occupational Health & Wellbeing Awards were:
- Fiona Berry, wellness manager at Circus Street
- Dr Steve Boorman, chair of the Council for Work and Health and director of employee health at Empactis
- Eugene Farrell, chair of the UK Employee Assistance Professionals Association as well as mental health lead at AXA PPP healthcare
- Professor Anne Harriss, emeritus professor in occupational health, CPD editor of Occupational Health & Wellbeing and president of SOM, the Society of Occupational Medicine
- Mandy Murphy, strategic OH services adviser and professional coach as well as deputy head of the National School of Occupational Health
- Nic Paton, editor of Occupational Health & Wellbeing
- Ashleigh Webber, HR and wellbeing editor at Personnel Today
Our awards sponsor
Our thanks also go to this year’s sponsor for the Occupational Health & Wellbeing Awards, healthcare company Reframe.
Reframe is a different kind of healthcare company, one that’s on a mission to transform the individual’s experience of healthcare systems in the UK and beyond.
We provide practical, emotional and clinical support to over 150,000 people in some of Europe’s biggest companies and organisations.
Originally founded in 2012 to help people with cancer, our innovative approach combines technology, data and outstanding service to care for people on their preferred terms.