The West Midlands Ambulance Service University NHS Foundation Trust joined the NHS Health and Wellbeing Improvement Collaborative in March 2018 as part of the drive to further improve its staff health and wellbeing programme. They completed the NHS Health and Wellbeing Framework diagnostic to provide further clarity on their priorities and areas where they could have the greatest impact on staff health and wellbeing. The trust was extremely familiar with the use of the framework as it was part of the working development group.
Using the NHS Health and Wellbeing framework diagnostic tool as a means to identify and clarify priorities, they revised their Health and Wellbeing strategy to concentrate on initiatives and practices grouped under the headings of mental health, physical health and healthy lifestyles, all of which were underpinned by board-level leadership.
They promoted their offers widely, using their health and wellbeing intranet, regular articles in their Weekly Brief communication, wellbeing events, health and wellbeing noticeboards and through the staff advice and liaison service, as well as reaching out to staff through their network of staff Health and Wellbeing Champions.
The Trust’s comprehensive range of initiatives included:
- delivering an extensive Mental Health First Aid training programme by investing in the training of 8 fully qualified instructors
- a weight management programme linked into Slimming World and accessed by 738 staff
- the development and implementation of an Improving Mental Wellbeing and Preventing Suicide Strategy
- and a salary sacrifice Cycle to Work scheme.
In partnership with trade union representatives from Unison the trust has purchased health check equipment to enable the roll out of health checks for all staff at every location, providing them with proactive and current insight about their health status. It has an in-house physiotherapy service, purely for staff, with a rapid 48-hour triage service. This service provides treatment clinics across all areas of the organisation, including offering advice and guidance on the prevention of musculoskeletal complaints.
It has also enhanced the team by employing two psychotherapists to work as mental wellbeing practitioners solely to support staff to proactively manage their mental wellbeing.
The trust has invested in significant leadership and management development for managers to give them the tools and skills to effectively support their staff. Managers have been encouraged to listen to the needs of their teams and empowered to take a solution-based approach to health and wellbeing and attendance management. This has been a key cultural shift, led by the executive director/health and wellbeing champion and supported by the board of directors.
Employees’ wellbeing and absences from work are managed collaboratively between human resources, trade unions, occupational health, in-house physiotherapists and mental wellbeing practitioners, to provide a co-ordinated overall package of care and focus.
West Midlands Ambulance Service consistently reports the lowest sickness absence rate in the ambulance sector with a mean rate of 3.52% against their peer average of 5.41%. Since starting the Health and Wellbeing Improvement Programme 15 months ago, the trust has reported their sickness absence rate continues to remain below their target of 4%.
In the 2018 staff survey, the trust had a higher than average number of colleagues reporting they believed the trust to be taking positive action on health and wellbeing.