The NHS needs to better evaluate its internal health and wellbeing programmes if it is to secure itself as a national leader on healthy staff.
‘Evaluating Health & Wellbeing Interventions For Healthcare Staff: Key Findings’, published today (21 November), has warned that financial pressure on the NHS will make it increasingly difficult for NHS boards to justify its own staff health and wellbeing programmes – unless more evidence and rigor is developed to assess their value.
NHS Employers, which published the report, said this would be a significant loss because effective programmes need to expand and are known to benefit staff, the health service and patients.
It comes after the announcement in October 2014 by Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, in which he outlined his vision of an NHS that encourages the public to become healthier by strongly supporting its own staff to do likewise.
The report provides evidence and describes ten key principles to help enhance evaluation of these programmes:
- Ensure the purpose of the evaluation is determined
- Establish your evaluation criteria
- Plan, prepare and where possible document the evaluation design
- Look for change
- Consider the long-term impacts of an intervention
- Consider the bigger picture
- Senior management engagement
- Build a capacity and capability for evaluation
- Ensure there is focus on process as well as on the outcome
- Effective communication and understanding of evaluation findings
It also recommends that NHS organisations increasingly share and develop a detailed evidence base – helping to explore what works and what doesn’t.
The report is the result of a year of research in partnership with Zeal Solutions Ltd, including substantial cooperation from the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to support and analyse improvements in its PhysioPlus staff physiotherapy service.
Danny Mortimer, chief executive of the NHS Employers organisation, said:
“The NHS has over many years expanded its staff wellbeing policies and programmes, supporting the well-being of our people, to help them to deliver high quality patient care. However we are concerned that financial pressure on NHS organisations will reduce the funding for such projects unless managers can better demonstrate their value.
“Developing more systematic, evidence-based approaches will drive improvement in these projects. This research can be used to demonstrate the impact of quality health and wellbeing programmes to Boards throughout the NHS. I also have no doubt that NHS organisations can provide a great example to others about how staff can become healthier and more engaged in their roles.”
Sir Andrew Cash, chief executive of Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said:
“It is a challenging time for the health system as a whole. So it’s absolutely right that these important staff wellbeing programmes need to grow, to ensure staff and the service have the resilience to deliver care when patients need it most.
“I’m very pleased that Sheffield Teaching Hospital’s self-referral PhysioPlus service is a big part of this report. Working closely with NHS Employers and Zeal helped PhysioPlus to use good practice. We found that open relationships and robust evaluation are key, especially when evaluation is targeted, and also that a good system helps get more people interested in the benefits.”
Professor Karen Middleton, chief executive of The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, said:
“Given the cost of sickness absence in the NHS, the squeeze on budgets and the need to deliver high quality care to patients, it is vital that the NHS invests in the health of its own staff.
“Sickness absence amongst NHS workers can mean missed appointments and longer waits for treatment for patients.
“The Boorman review in 2009 found that provision of health and wellbeing schemes could save the NHS £555m nationally and today’s report shows that fast access to physiotherapy can greatly reduce absence rates and increase productivity amongst staff.
“The research highlights a strong commitment to reducing sickness absence in the NHS and presents a compelling case for this being adopted throughout the NHS.”
Then report is available here (publicly from 21 November and under embargo from 20 November): http://www.nhsemployers.org/
Sick leave in the NHS has gradually improved and at least 300,000 more staff are covered by comprehensive health and wellbeing policies compared to three years ago. Dozens of strong and engaging health and wellbeing programmes within the NHS examples are available here: http://www.nhsemployers.org/