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Allied Health Professionals can help deliver a healthy workforce

NHS England’s Chief Allied Health Professions Officer calls on the AHP workforce to engage in the delivery of a £5m initiative to improve the health and wellbeing of health service staff:

Last month NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens announced a £5m initiative to support wellbeing initiatives for his staff saying: “The NHS has got to lead by example in helping our own staff and hopefully other employers will follow suit.”

There are a number of challenges to introducing this sort of initiative to an organisation as complicated and vast as the NHS but, as one of the largest employers in the world, we also recognise the benefits.

I want to encourage the NHS to use its dietetic workforce to assist in the delivery of Simon Stevens’ initiative for our organisation and also to recommend that other organisations looking for advice use a dietitian.

The focus of the initiative includes reasons for sickness absence, while supporting staff to stay well to benefit them and their service users.

Allied Health Professionals have the skills and expertise to prevent and manage a range of long term conditions which affect individual wellbeing and organisational productivity.

Our NHS workforce is a microcosm of society in terms of age, gender, income and ethnicity and I would urge AHPs to make themselves heard in the bid to benefit both staff and taxpayers.

A new White Paper from an AHP organisation, the British Dietetic Association ‘Supporting healthier working lives through dietitian-led wellness initiatives’, recognises that some unhealthy practices can be influenced by the working environment.

For instance, healthcare workers are more likely to work in environments with irregular shifts, and thus may experience more barriers to achieving regular eating and exercise patterns. While shift workers are also more at risk of developing obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disorders.

AHPs – particularly dietitians – have the expertise to implement multi-level prevention strategies for these conditions.

Long-term conditions such as depression and musculoskeletal disorders are the biggest cause of sickness absence for NHS employees. Small ‘nudges’ can create behaviour change, improving health.

When implemented by experts like dietitians and other AHPs, these techniques can be effectively implemented across organisations to reduce healthcare costs and absenteeism and improve productivity.

Good nutrition and hydration, alongside other healthy habits and good employment practices, keep the UK workforce healthy and productive. And I believe the Allied Health Professions have among them people with the training and experience to deliver a healthier NHS workforce.

  • More information about the BDA’s work around workplace health, including the white paper, can be found at www.bdaworkready.co.uk.
  • For regular updates on the Allied Health Professions follow @WeAHPs
Suzanne Rastrick

Suzanne Rastrick is Chief Allied Health Professions Officer, NHS England.

She qualified as an occupational therapist in Oxford in 1986, and began her career in the acute hospital sector, moving to practice in community and primary care where she then gained her first general management role.

Suzanne was one of the first allied health professionals to hold a substantive Director of Nursing post, and has since held these roles in both providing and commissioning organisations in the NHS. She has also been Chief Executive of a Primary Care Trust Cluster, and achieved authorisation for a large Clinical Commissioning Group with an integral commissioning support unit.

She has a Non-Executive portfolio in the commercial and not-for-profit housing sector, and sits on a number of national groups including NHS Employers Policy Board, Health Education England AHP Advisory Group, and England Centre for Practice Development National Advisory Board.

Suzanne was appointed as Chief Allied Health Professions Officer for NHS England on 1 September 2014. This role also has key professional leadership relationships to the Department of Health as well as to Health Education England.

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