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Delivering workplace wellness services for over 300 NHS staff

In 2013 the Academic Health Science Network awarded us a grant to deliver workplace wellness services within the NHS the for the Yorkshire and Humberside region.

According to the Boorman review (2009), health and wellbeing is vital to enabling the NHS to deliver high standards of quality and good patient outcomes, and critical to improvements in patient care envisaged in the NHS Constitution (Department of Health, NHS Constitution, 2010). In a sector where staff face an increased pressure to perform with limited resources, it is essential that a proactive approach is taken to support their health and wellbeing.

What we did

In 2012–13, exercise science officers who specialise in workplace wellness, physical activity and wellbeing provided a pilot workplace health and wellbeing service for 50 staff based at the Northern General Hospital and Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield. Following its success, we rolled the first year out to 300 NHS staff in Sheffield, Airedale and Bradford in 2013–14.

The programme was based on our own award-winning workplace health promotion programme and included individualised health and fitness assessments, lifestyle management advice, one-to-one coaching, and educational workshops to raise awareness on topics including exercise, healthy eating, mental wellbeing and resilience.

The result

The results were very positive, with significant improvements in a broad range of physiological, mental health and lifestyle variables. After only six months, the programme demonstrated a significant reduction in cardiovascular disease factors within participants in the 'at risk' category. This included waist circumference, total cholesterol, blood pressure, physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness. Significant improvements in mental wellbeing were also reported.

Staff feedback was also extremely positive. 95% reported making positive changes to their health or lifestyle – including exercise, healthy eating, weight management, reduced alcohol, mental wellbeing, back care and quitting smoking. 97% rated that their experience of the wellbeing programme was excellent or very good, and 98% agreed that it would be a valuable workplace benefit.

It's estimated that the pilot study saved Sheffield Teaching Hospitals £36,223 based on reductions in sickness absence alone. This was achieved at a cost of £13,200, providing a return on investment ratio of 1:3 – that's £3 saved for every £1 spent.

The return on investment for year one of the programme has been calculated at between 304% and 571% – between £3 and £6 on every £1 invested.

The next stage is to roll the programme out more widely across the NHS and small and medium sized enterprises within the Yorkshire and Humber region.

They say

The health and wellbeing of staff is a priority for any organisation, but particularly one whose core business is the delivery of healthcare.

Sheffield Hallam University's support has been invaluable in helping us understand the benefits of a structured health and wellbeing intervention both in terms of the holistic benefits to our staff and also the commercial benefits in terms of return on investment.

The success of our initial collaboration with Sheffield Hallam is leading to additional programs of work and research, and we now plan to build on the results of our pilot study by developing a protocol for a larger study to try and investigate the potential impact of a larger organisation intervention.

Dr Simon Till, consultant rheumatologist and sports physician, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals.

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