The NHS Workforce: Humans After All

19 March 2021

Liaison Workforce

As we reach the anniversary of the beginning of the first lockdown in the UK as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, we can all agree that the year was impactful in many ways. Some of the most commonly words heard throughout the year in relation to frontline NHS staff include “burnout”, “stress”, “fear”, and “safety”.

However, one positive which has come out of this situation has been the focus on putting wellbeing at the forefront of the agenda for the NHS, and ensuring breaking down the existing taboos for self-care and mental health support.

What have we learnt during the pandemic?

Covid-19 has increased recognition and acknowledgement of the NHS as the UK’s most important institution, and the sacrifices made daily by clinical staff to treat and care for our communities. However, it has also highlighted that NHS staff are humans too, not immune to stress, burnout, illness and the coronavirus itself. Physically and mentally, NHS staff have put themselves on the frontline for the UK on a daily basis and as such, the question we should all consider is who is looking after the carers?

Back in April of last year, a guide was published in the European Health Journal which described labels such as “heroes” or “angels” when describing NHS staff as problematic, as it made it harder for staff to describe how they were feeling during the pandemic and put undue pressure on them.  

Prior to 2020, those joining the NHS were unaware, as we all were, of an incoming pandemic, and there are many motivations for entering the healthcare profession. From joining the family profession, to wanting to help others or make a difference, regardless of the initial motivation, all healthcare workers will require support to maintain their motivation and to be asked how they are. 

But who should be the person to ask this question? Is it team members? The wellbeing guardians within a trust? Friends or family? The NHS has clearly shown its commitment to ensuring the wellbeing of its workforce is cared for, but there remains a key role in making a real difference, the line manager.

Have you had your health and wellbeing conversation?

The NHS People Plan states:

“From September 2020, every member of the NHS should have a health and wellbeing conversation and develop a personalised plan. These conversations may fit within an appraisal, job plan or one-to-one line management discussion, and should be reviewed at least annually. As part of this conversation, line managers will be expected to discuss the individual’s health and wellbeing, and any flexible working requirements, as well as equality, diversity and inclusion.”

For individuals, this conversation may be one of the most important they have – giving them the opportunity to address concerns and make changes to positively impact their wellbeing.

The Institute of Health & Social Care Management’s Roy Lilley recently wrote; “How people are treated, involved, engaged and listened to, will be the factors that will determine how the Service recovers from the rigours of the pandemic and copes with the post-Covid challenges of the months to come.”

It is important to recognise that the information given during these conversations can be vital to identifying key areas of concern for individuals and throughout a team, trust and/or region, and so the information provided should be recorded accurately and shared securely in order to ensure the following:

  • An understanding of the impact on wellbeing due to Covid-19, workload and resilience
  • The required actions needed to reduce negative impact on wellbeing
  • Understanding on what would help at both a line manager and organisational level.

If you require help digitising your conversation outcomes, in order to effectively track wellbeing outcomes, please get in touch.