Promoting the health and wellbeing of NHS Staff

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2016 Health Care Service Group Conference
11 December 2015

Conference notes that employers have a duty of care to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of their staff. Pledge 3 of the NHS Constitution (England) – a document whose principles are supported by all UK health departments – also makes a commitment to staff to maintain their health, wellbeing and safety.

However, Conference is concerned at the evidence that large numbers of NHS staff are being failed in that duty. Successive years of NHS staff survey results show that high levels of work-related stress, violence, bullying and abuse are both widespread and persistent. The latest NHS staff survey results show that 39% of staff suffered from work-related stress in the previous 12 months (well over one-third of the workforce.) Almost one-third of NHS staff (28%) experienced bullying, harassment and abuse from patients or the public; and 14% experienced physical violence. Both figures are even higher for staff working in ambulance and mental health services. Even more distressing is the survey finding that 24% of staff experienced bullying and harassment from their line manager or colleague.

Year on year, these figures remain largely unchanged apart from minor fluctuations – a situation which is totally unacceptable and must be addressed.

Conference welcomes the Healthy Workplaces initiative announced by NHS England in September 2015. Led by Dame Carol Black, the initiative involves working with NHS organisations to improve the provision of healthier food options, promote physical activity, reduce stress, and provide health checks for mental health and musculoskeletal problems. The healthy workplaces initiative is supported by the NHS unions and UNISON will be involved in the project.

Conference also welcomes the stated commitment from health minister Ben Gummer to tackle the problem of bullying and harassment of NHS staff, and supports UNISON’s involvement and input into the development of a strategy to address this.

Conference recognises that the delivery of high quality care depends on an NHS workforce that is properly valued and supported to maintain its own health and wellbeing. However, all too often we witness examples where service pressures and lack of sufficient resources have led to a culture of bullying, and the devastating impact that this can have on staff morale and the patient experience.

Conference believes that an NHS Health and Wellbeing strategy must be evidence based so that the measures taken to improve conditions for staff are proven and effective. Without this approach, current levels of stress, bullying and harassment will remain unchanged. Issues of concern should be jointly identified at local level and solutions discussed and implemented in partnership.

Conference therefore calls on SGE to:

1)continue to press government and employers to support the health and wellbeing of NHS staff;

2)encourage health branches to work with employers at local level to implement robust health and wellbeing policy and practices to support the workforce;

3)encourage health branches to raise health and wellbeing issues of concern with their employer, to discuss them at local partnership and JNC meetings and to agree solutions in partnership;

4)produce a checklist for branches on key issues to be included in any local joint discussions to support the health and wellbeing of staff.