NHS to introduce new financial incentive to improve staff health

The NHS in England is step up its efforts to improve the health of its 1.3 million staff by offering financial incentives to support their heath and provide them with healthy food options.

Simon Stevens, the Chief Executive of NHS England, said he hoped that more employers from public and private sectors would follow the health service example.

From April, hospitals and other providers of NHS care will for the first time be funded to improve the support they offer to frontline health staff to stay healthy. They will be able to earn their share of a national incentive fund worth £450m in 2016/17 if they:

  • offer frontline nurses, therapists, doctors, care assistants and other staff access to workplace physio, mental health support, and healthy workplace options. The annual NHS staff survey will track the increase in NHS staff saying that their trust is taking positive action to support their health and wellbeing, and reduce work related stress and back injuries.
  • take action on junk food and obesity by ensuring that healthy food options are available for their staff and visitors, including those working night shifts. To qualify for the scheme, trusts will need to remove adverts, price promotions and checkout displays of sugary drinks and high fat sugar and salt food from their NHS premises. They will also be required to submit information on their current fast food franchises, vending machines and retail outlets in preparation for the NHS ‘sugar tax’.
  • increase the uptake of the winter flu vaccine for their staff so as to reduce sickness absence and protect vulnerable patients from infection. The aim is to increase staff vaccination rates from around 50% to nearer to 75%.

Estimates from Public Health England put the cost to the NHS of staff absence due to poor health at £2.4bn a year – around £1 in every £40 of the total budget. Almost 25% of adults in England are obese, with significant numbers also being overweight. Treating obesity and its consequences alone costs the NHS an estimated £5.1bn every year.

Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England, says: “As the largest employer in Europe, the NHS needs to practice what it preaches by offering better support for the health and wellbeing of our own 1.3 million staff. A good place to start is by tackling the sources of staff sickness absence including mental health and musculoskeletal injuries, while doing our bit to end the nation’s obesity epidemic by ditching junk food and sugary drinks in place of tasty, healthy and affordable alternatives.

“If we can do this well, we hope that more parts of the public and private sector will see the sense of it and also take the plunge.”

A key part of improving health and wellbeing for staff is giving them the opportunity to access schemes that promote physical activity, provide them with mental health support and rapid access to physiotherapy where required. Under this new programme, hospitals, ambulance trusts, community and mental health providers and others will be funded to support them:

  1. Introducing a range of physical activity schemes for staff. Providers would be expected to offer physical activity schemes with an emphasis on promoting active travel, building physical activity into working hours and reducing sedentary behaviour. They could also introduce physical activity sessions for staff which could include a range of physical activities such as; team sports, fitness classes, running clubs and team challenges.
  2. Improving access to physiotherapy services for staff. A fast track physiotherapy service for staff suffering from musculoskeletal (MSK) issues to ensure staff who are referred via GPs or Occupational Therapists can access it in a timely manner without delay; and
  3. Introducing a range of mental health initiatives for staff. Providers would be expected to offer support to staff such as, but not restricted to; stress management courses, line management training, mindfulness courses, counselling services including sleep counselling and mental health first aid training.


  1. Debbie Bainbridge says:

    I’m having bariatric surgery soon and feel pressured into returning to work after only 2 weeks. One of my senior managers feels that I should be using annual leave as the procedure is cosmetic. As an NHS employee, surely I should be setting a good example and surely my employers should be sympathetic.

  2. Tony says:

    Could you please provide some straight forward steps one needs to take to access this funding.

    For example;
    -To apply for the funding contact xxxxx
    -The maximum funding available per organisation is xxxxx
    -Deadline for applications xxxxx
    -The application form can be found xxxxx

    The easier you make this process the more interest the project will generate. I have read the CQUIN pages you pointed us to but none of the information I have highlighted above is available.


  3. Julie says:

    What is the timeframe and process for accessing these funds

  4. julie says:

    Will GP practices and their staff have access to this fund under their PMS/GMS/APMS contracts

  5. Janie Conlin says:

    Can CCGs apply for this funding? If so what is the process and how can i find out more information?

    • NHS England says:

      Hi Janie

      The CQUIN scheme is only available to NHS providers operating under the NHS Standard Contract, meaning CCGs are not eligible.

      Kind Regards
      NHS England

  6. Dr fakhry El-Huseini says:

    Trust took me to mental hospital when they brake their promises to treat my PTSD that done by their missmangment over 7 years, they are discrimination against my disability of conductive Aphasia, hindering vital documents, produce fake documents as or original refused to give it to me to check it’s authenticisty! Referring me to GMC to stop my regiration inorder to dismiss me, All firms of health department are working in orchardrated campaign with each other against the staff, breaching FOI, DDA, RRA, information protect act

  7. Maudie McHardy says:

    We have many H&WB initiatives here so how do we actually apply for funding-there appears to be a lot of rhetoric about this in the media and on NHS related websites such as this, but no real guidance as to how we would actually apply for any funding!

    • NHS England says:

      Hi Maudie

      More information about these health and wellbeing indicators, and the wider CQUIN scheme they are part of, can be found on the 2016/17 CQUIN webpage.

      Kind regards
      NHS England

  8. Pitt says:

    I don’t actually understand why so much emphasis on flu vaccination when recent evidence shows no appreciable effect on working days lost or hospitalisation.

    A campaign focused on increasing Vitamin D intake especially in the Winter should be at the forefront of the incentives, yet, it is ignored, again!

  9. Sarah Fairman says:

    Please can you let me know more information on how to access the funding and the deadline date for submission?

    Many thanks

    Sarah Fairman
    H&W Co-ordinator
    Cheshire & Wirral NHS Foundation Trust

  10. Peter Fox says:

    The evidence suggests to successfully manage obesity, as with MSK injuries, psychological welfare must be part of the process, to achieve sustained behavioural change, through changing beliefs. So while putting in place staff Physiotherapists and making healthy food available, psychological welfare services must also be developed to support staff to sustain the change, otherwise the investment will not maximise its potential.

    While I understand and respect the political comments posted, the evidence also suggest investing in staff health and wellbeing directly improves the outcomes for patients, this is why the private sector is investing in it, as they now understand profits are greater. There are many numbers reported but a commonly held belief is for every £1 invested in health & wellbeing there is £3 return and I have see returns in some project reported as three and four fold this.

    I am thrilled NHS England have invested in this, well done to them, to have the courage to do it and in my mind it should be considered a good start, but a long way from the end of investing in staff Health Wellbeing for better patient care.

  11. Helen Elliott says:

    I would like to put a training package together to support the NHS that would incorporate the courses mentioned in the article together with some practical activities. We are a registered training provider in The East Midlands, working closely with a number of NHS trusts.
    How would we apply for funding to support the development and implementation of this project?

  12. Sarah Williams says:

    The figure quoted in the first press release at the weekend was £600 million and this has now dropped to 450 million and I wonder why there is a discrepancy? This sounds like a fantastic incentive – I would like to check that the numbers are correct as there are around 450 NHS organisations in England so this equates to over £1 million per organisation to implement/enhance these initiatives. I would like to see a proportion of this amount used to fund a rigorous evaluation of new/enhanced initiatives, plus a requirement for a strategic approach that includes sustainability. Otherwise you risk funding a flurry of activity that is not evidence-based, appropriately evaluated or sustainable once funding runs out.

    • NHS England says:

      Hi Sarah

      The health and wellbeing indicators are worth up to £450m for 2016/17 (0.75% of the value of services under the NHS Standard Contract) Apologies for any confusion –
      ore information can be found on the 2016/17 CQUIN webpage

      Kind regards
      NHS England

  13. Jane Wright says:

    Where can I find out more information about this?

  14. Iain Wheatley says:


    I have a number of comments but my main one is that I often see terms like ‘Offer the Healthy option’. This is usually in relation to food.

    This is I am sure a mistake as what we should be saying in the NHS is that every option is healthy, particularly where food is concerned. It should be compulsory in the NHS for food to be healthy. If you want to offer something then make a stand out unhealthy option, make it known what is unhealthy which may reduce the number of people entering into choosing an unhealthy option!

    Food for thought.

  15. A Baker says:

    I have just read the article re the allocation of funds for overweight members of staff to help lose weight. I understand days are lost through illness eyc but this will always be the case whether people are overweight or not. Unfortunately it does not answer my original question of why finds are being allocated in the first place. It is down to the individual concerned to lose weight. This money needs to be put into the NHS and not wastedon this.

  16. Melanie Kynaston says:

    Can you advise how we go about showing interest in this scheme “They will be able to earn their share of a national incentive fund worth £600m in 2016/17” Is it a case of an improvement in our NHS staff survey that staff are happier and healthier and therefore we would be awarded appropriately?

    • NHS England says:

      Hi Melanie

      More information about these health and wellbeing indicators, and the wider CQUIN scheme they are part of, can be found on the 2016/17 CQUIN webpage.

      Kind regards
      NHS England

  17. Ian Wilson says:

    This is great news; it will allow us to boost our occasional ‘Fruity Friday’ offering of fresh fruit to staff, e.g. by provision of bio-juices, herbal teas etc, as well as the possibility of introducing other wellness ideas not currently provided.

    Be great to have some more details around the actual funding mechanism, as the above media release only seems to apply to NHS trusts, not the wider NHS community. Can someone please provide full details of the mechanisms to the contact details provided.

  18. Ross says:

    In my opinion this will not fix the problem. The root cause is a lack of staff in the NHS which adds pressure (stress) to the current workforce. This investment is targetted at the symptoms not the root cause. Having more staff would ensure that current staff would not have to work extra shifts on their rest days, not work extra hours in the day, take lunchbreaks/tea breaks, ulitmately freeing up time to participate in physical activities and focus on a healthier lifestyle

  19. Tim Clench says:

    When I started working for the NHS 35 years ago, most of the hospitals I worked at had a swimming pool and other fitness facilities. All had subsidised staff canteens which, whilst not necessarily serving particularly healthy food, at least served freshly prepared non-processed food. Since then all these facilities have disappeared in most hospitals in the name of saving money and earning income from fast food franchises.

  20. Graham Boniface says:

    What about prioritising research into NHS Staff health and wellbeing?

  21. Steve Evans says:

    The Chief Executive of NHS England is unable to spell “to practise” correctly.
    Isn’t there a “webmaster” link to let you know these things?

  22. Gill Shinkwin says:

    We would like to run weight management sessions for staff. We currently have a programme that has evaluated well and had a poster presented at Diabetes UK , last week.

    Would there be any possibility of funding to support this ?