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NHS sets 2025 deadline for improving staff wellbeing services

by Jess Hacker
22 November 2021

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The NHS has set a deadline of 2025 to ‘formalise an approach’ to ensure healthcare staff can access health and care services when needed.

The target date was outlined in a new report (published 22 November) which looked at the NHS’ 10-year strategy for HR and organisational development services.

The report set out 35 actions across eight themes within HR, including prioritising the health and wellbeing of ‘all our people’, creating a great employee experience and ensuring inclusion.

As part of this, chief people officer Prerana Issar, who wrote the report, said the national team would develop a local-level curriculum to support staff health and wellbeing, adding that it would ‘formalise an approach to ensure rapid access to core health and care services’ for staff by 2025.

The report said: ‘The people profession should ensure that leaders and managers have the support they need to prioritise their own health and wellbeing so that they, in turn, can prioritise the health and wellbeing of their people.

‘People professionals need to ensure they understand where there are inequalities in staff health and wellbeing in their systems and organisations and take action to address them.’

The report also outlined other health and wellbeing plans to introduce by 2023, including:

  • Definitive metrics to help measure and track staff health and wellbeing,
  • Definitive standards for access to rest spaces and similar workplace spaces that might support wellbeing,
  • Continue setting out national direction on health and wellbeing through operational planning guidance.

Throughout the pandemic, organisations and think tanks have highlighted the need to support staff wellbeing.

Earlier this year, the National Association of Primary Care (NAPC) warned that health and care staff wellbeing ‘must be of equal priority’ to that of patients, adding that a narrow focus on performance and staff putting patients’ needs ahead of their own.

A recent study found that a third of NHS staff were found to be under ‘moderate’ or ‘severe’ mental disorder or distress on the Kessler Distress Scale.

Meanwhile, primary care staff have cited the sector-wide shortages as having a significant impact on their wellbeing and patient care.

Staff expectations changing

In addition to improving staff wellbeing, the report set out a series of key focus areas to support staff over the next decade.

These included improving equality and diversity – with ICSs responsible for providing clear career pathways for people with protected characteristics – and ‘embedding new ways of working’, with ICS people officers asked to ‘consider different employment models’ to enable flexible working.

The report said that the NHS must adjust to major changes and trends in the workforce, including dealing with changes to what staff expect from their work.

People increasingly want ‘meaningful work’ with more autonomy and better work-life balance, which may be as important as pay scales and progression, it said.

Similarly, the number of people continuing to work later in life is increasing which may lead to people have ‘more stages’ in their career or shifting between sectors, it added.

More is also expected of employers on issues of workplace inequalities, it said. Earlier this month, NHS England revealed it had a 16.2% gender pay gap as of this year.

‘These changes will affect not only the way the people profession needs to lead and act, but how the whole health and care system will deliver,’ it said in its new HR report.

‘Managers across the sector and at every level will need to play their part, to respond to these changes and use them as an opportunity to transform the experience that our people have at work.’

However, a recent report found that the NHS does not have the tools to manage worsening rates of staff inequality, with poor inclusivity expected to negatively impact care offered to patients.