How can employee benefits help the NHS?
The ‘improving staff health and wellbeing’ CQUIN indicator has three parts, each with a 33.3% weighting. While two of the parts, ‘improving the uptake of flu vaccinations’ and ‘healthy food for NHS staff, visitors and patients’ involve investing in the provision of tangible goods to deliver these outcomes, the other – improvement of health and wellbeing of NHS staff – is less clear cut. While vaccinating staff and providing healthier food in staff canteens will go some way to improving health and wellbeing, delivering on this last indicator needs the active participation of staff and senior managers alike.
Not only is it necessary to put programmes in place to promote health and wellbeing at work, but it also requires getting ‘buy in’ from NHS staff and their commitment to improving their health and wellbeing overall.
Let’s remind ourselves of how this part of the CQUIN indicator is measured. In the annual staff survey two of three questions (9a, 9b and 9C) need to achieve a 5% improvement over a period of two years. These questions are:
9a: Does your organisation take positive action on health and wellbeing?
9b: In the last 12 months have you experienced musculoskeletal problems (MSK) as result of work activities?
9c: During the last 12 months have you felt unwell as a result of work related stress?
There are many steps that can be taken to prevent MSK problems at work, including setting up the workplace correctly (chair and desk height, location of computer etc.), provision of the correct equipment especially for lifting or moving patients, and training to ensure that staff know how to protect themselves and avoid any issues developing.
Similarly, there are measures that can be put in place to reduce workplace stress, such as monitoring workloads, improving working conditions, and identifying employees with early signs of stress so they can be supported before the problem escalates.
It should be remembered that MSK and stress related problems are a significant factor in staff absenteeism, which Public Health England estimates to be costing the NHS £2.4 billion a year.
Specific measures to address these issues are one line of defence. However, in many cases their effectiveness is limited if the overall health and wellbeing of employees is poor. If someone is overweight or obese they will be more susceptible to MSK problems; or if someone lacks energy and vitality because of poor lifestyle choices and they may find it harder to cope with stressful situations.
Without a doubt if we are fit and healthy we are more likely to stay that way, having both physical and mental resilience.
Promoting Health and Wellbeing Schemes
So, although specific measures need to be implemented to raise awareness of workplace MSK problems and stress related issues, and provide support; there is scope to make these more effective by increasing the overall health and wellbeing of our employees.
This feeds into question 9a: Does your organisation take positive action on health and wellbeing? I believe there is a lot HR and NHS managers can do to encourage healthier and fitter lifestyles, and to support staff in achieving their goals.
Smoking cessation groups and weight loss programmes are great for support with specific challenges, but there is also scope for schemes for those who want to maintain a healthy lifestyle long term.
Regular exercise is a key factor in long term good health, and especially for protecting the body from MSK issues. Similarly, exercise can boost mood and help people cope with stress – a workout in the gym at the end of the day or a cycle ride home can be a very effective stress buster.
To this end I would encourage you to look at ways to get staff moving and exercising regularly, such as the very popular Cycle to Work schemes that many NHS employees have already taken advantage of.
Of course, owning a bike or a gym membership doesn’t necessarily mean that staff will actually use it, so it’s important that whatever health and wellbeing schemes you introduce they are actively promoted. This means not just getting employees signed up, but also on-going reminders and motivations to keep staff fit and healthy, and actively participating.
If you are thinking about introducing an employee benefit scheme you will find that most providers offer excellent support in promoting the scheme to staff, and boosting those motivation levels.
These schemes can also have a very positive impact on meeting CQUIN targets, with staff able to confirm that your organisation does take positive action on health and wellbeing.
Sales Director at Vivup.
Vivup is a wellness programme and is the first cost-free platform that provides a complete set of employee benefits and health and wellbeing initiatives. Vivup is a SME HCI Ltd brand. Founded in 2005, SME HCI Ltd is an employee benefits and health and wellbeing specialist with over 30 years of experience.