Wellbeing ‘champions’ needed to promote health in NHS trusts

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NHS trusts should appoint a board-level workplace health “champion” to lead and promote staff health and wellbeing, according to both the Royal College of Physicians and the Faculty of Occupational Medicine.

The Staff Health Improvement project was put together by the college and faculty’s combined Health and Work Development Unit, and was endorsed by NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson.

It recommended that there be more sharing of best practice to ensure access to workplace health is more consistent and appropriate across the NHS.

There needed to be more work by NHS employers to address major public health challenges such as smoking, obesity, physical activity and mental wellbeing in their workforces.

At the same time, proactive board-level leadership and the communication of strong organisational values explicitly linked to staff health and engagement were seen as key elements for successful implementation of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence’s public health guidance for the workplace.

To this end, the project recommended appointing a board lead who would have responsibility for staff health and wellbeing, drawing links between respect and engagement of staff, and articulating to staff the relationship between their health and wellbeing and the quality of care they deliver.

The study built on the 2010 national audit of the NHS, which found that almost half (44%) of trusts had an overarching strategy or policy for staff health and wellbeing, only 9% had a plan or policy to reduce obesity among staff approved by the board and only 37% of trust boards had approved a plan or policy to promote the mental wellbeing of staff.

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