Tackling Health Inequalities in the NHS Workforce

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2009 Health Care Service Group Conference
12 December 2008
Carried as Amended

Conference notes with approval that the NHS Health Trainer Programme is providing evidence of making significant inroads into tackling health inequalities. The programme provides 1 to 1 advice for individuals through practical motivational support on lifestyle changes. Health trainers provide a sustainable input into health improvement by training the individual to actively set their own goals, their own behaviour and events and circumstances in their own life that they want to change. However conference also recognises that that the key to improving the health of the NHS workforce is for employers to tackle the underlying causes of ill health in the workplace such as stress, bullying & harassment and musculoskeletal injuries. Conference welcomes the publication of the NHS Occupational Health & Safety Standards and expects all NHS employers to comply with them.

Conference notes that over 80% of all PCT’s in England have developed health trainer services and also the army and several commercial services have invested in this provision for their staff.

This Conference proposes that UNISON should seek to have an NHS health trainer service providing a workforce provision for all staff employed by the NHS with an initial focus on staff in Bands 1-4, recognising that these staff are the lowest paid and often those with the heaviest burdens on their resources for both personal health and those of their families. Seeking within these proposals to negotiate a formalised programme whereby staff are given time off within working hours to access the support of a health trainer, recognising that a healthy workforce is one with less sickness absence.

Conference calls on the SGE to support workforce health improvement programmes such as the NHS Health Trainers Programme by:-

1.Encouraging activists and members to become health trainer champions (including undertaking the Royal Society for Public Health level 2 ‘Understanding Health Improvement’ qualification)

2.Encouraging branches to actively develop partnerships with their local NHS Health Trainer Services.

3.Send out literature / materials to facilitate the above.

Conference also proposes that UNISON should continue to work with NHS Employers, Health & Safety Executive and fellow trade unions to

a.Tackle the underlying causes of ill health in the workplace.

b.Ensure all providers of NHS services comply with the Occupational Health & Safety Standards as agreed by Staff Council.