Promoting partnership working in the NHS

Feel Good Friday - North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust

The organisation

North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare Trust is one of the main providers of mental health, social care and learning disability services in the West Midlands, with a team of around 1,400 staff and a turnover of £78m (2015/16). The trust delivers services in adult mental health and substance misuse (in-patient and community), neurological conditions and old age psychiatry, learning disabilities, and children and young people. The trust works in partnership with a range of educational establishments to support staff training in mental health and learning disability services. They also provide a growing research and development programme in collaboration with local and regional research networks, to deliver high quality research across a range of mental health topics.

The challenge

The staff at the trust often work with challenging service users in extremely stressful situations. This has a knock-on effect of being damaging to staff wellbeing, morale and productivity, as well as increasing levels of sickness absence - stress and anxiety regularly top the list of reasons. A culture of presenteeism has also developed, as some staff felt they could not call in sick because of the effect this would have on service delivery. They face the challenge of reducing stress felt by the workforce, for the sake of staff wellbeing and patient care.  

The aim

The idea of Feel Good Friday was suggested by a local UNISON rep, to counter high levels of stress. They proposed a regular event that had stalls which showcased a variety of initiatives and services that would help improve staff health and wellbeing, in addition to fostering further staff engagement with the trust. The intention was to give staff the opportunity to de-stress, take care of their own health and wellbeing, and to improve sickness absence in the long term.

The process

Staff were encouraged to make suggestions for health and wellbeing items for the event and a wide range of responses were received, including Indian head massage, mindfulness training, and physical health checks. Management worked with staff side to discuss suitable stalls and allocate responsibility for deciding stall holders, setting up the venue, advertising and admin duties. The group initially met twice monthly, which became monthly meetings after the first event. These meetings were designed to discuss lessons learned from the previous event and to plan for the next. A variety of media was used to advertise forthcoming events, from utilising the staff intranet, to working with the communications team to create posters that were used throughout the trust’s main site at Harplands Hospital as visual reminders for each event. 

Outcomes

The first Feel Good Friday event attracted around 200 staff, which was much more than anticipated by the trust. Improved health outcomes have been noted as stall holders were able to offer advice or signpost staff to other services, for example those who had high cholesterol were given advice on how to address the problem and where to find further support. One nurse found that one month after attending Feel Good Friday where she was signposted to other services, her cholesterol had lowered significantly. An additional benefit of the event was to reinforce the flu jab initiative in an interactive way. By interacting with staff directly, the vaccination team were able to encourage people to reconsider having the flu jab and ultimately contribute to keeping wards and departments flu free. The successful outcome of cohesive working between trust and trade union colleagues in a public forum has increased staff perception of trust between themselves and management colleagues, and staff are happy to participate in each event. The initiative being adapted at the trust HQ site for Wellbeing Wednesday so office workers can access the same benefits as hospital staff.

Top tips

  • Partnership working between the trust and trade union colleagues is key.
  • Aim to engage all staff.
  • Keep staff involved every step of the way, so they feel it is their event and not a management initiative that they must follow.
  • Provide advice and support but do not preach.

Further information:

Patrick Ross-Osborne Patrick.Ross-Osborne@northstaffs.nhs.uk