Health needs assessment helps find out what staff want

Staff at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust were keen to take part in a health needs assessment survey to shape health and wellbeing support

What we’ve done

Who we are

County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust is one of the largest integrated care providers in England. Our 7,000 staff serve around 650,000 people in the North East. We provide hospital and community services from over 80 sites, and in people’s homes.

What we did

As part of using the Health and Wellbeing Framework, we surveyed staff to understand what wellbeing at work meant to them. We felt it was important to ask people directly what they wanted, rather than making assumptions.

We used a survey to reach large numbers of staff from many services across our broad geography. We already have a Health and Wellbeing Working Group and Steering Group with staff representatives but wanted to reach as many staff as we could.

We worked with an external organisation to help shape the survey questions and analyse the feedback. We asked questions about smoking and physical activity; what wellbeing at work meant to people; what initiatives would help keep staff well and demographics. We drew on a needs assessment from the former Public Health England.

We ran the survey for five weeks in March/April 2022. We made it available online and on paper, so we reached people who do and do not use computers in their roles. We disseminated a QR code so it was easy for staff to find the survey on their mobiles. We promoted the survey through meetings, staff newsletters, the intranet and our private Facebook page.

We had a good response rate and collected information that we are using to shape our priorities. We plan to redo the health needs assessment every few years.

What we’ve achieved so far

As a result of our needs assessment and using the Health and Wellbeing Framework’s diagnostic tool, we are trying new approaches. We are focusing on building capacity to support wellbeing, including upskilling leaders and managers and the wider workforce.

We have thousands of staff and only a small wellbeing team, so we needed a way of increasing the number of people supporting the workforce and signposting to available resources.

We advertised for Health and Wellbeing Champions through newsletters and videos. We held drop-in sessions for people who may be interested in taking on this voluntary role. Most people who attended drop-in sessions have volunteered. Around 50 Champions are taking part in training. Over time, we are aiming to have a Champion in every ward and department so they can help promote wellbeing initiatives, run activities that they are interested in and gain feedback about what staff want.

We had wanted to do this previously, but our health needs assessment motivated us to move forward to help address what staff said was important to them.

“It can take a bit of time at first to use the Framework, but stick with it as it is worth it. Using the Framework highlighted that we need to know what people want. ‘Wellbeing’ means different things to different people. Hundreds of staff took part in our health needs assessment. It was their chance to tell us what they want.” – Trust representative

What we’ve learnt so far

  • The voice of staff should be central when deciding wellbeing priorities. A health needs assessment provides strong evidence, whether it is done using a survey, meetings or conversations with individual staff. Sometimes managers think that support is available or that they are doing something, whereas staff may have a different perspective.
  • Buy-in from senior leaders makes a difference. Our Trust leadership sees the value of supporting workforce wellbeing. We have a Wellbeing Guardian who holds the Board to account. Having high-level support means we can ringfence time to focus on wellbeing and keep the momentum going. We mapped our Wellbeing Strategy against the elements of the Framework. Senior personnel reviewed the diagnostic tool. We are highlighting our health needs assessment findings to a strategic Workforce Group which reports to the Board.
  • The Framework can be used at different levels of an organisation. We used the Framework at organisation-wide level first. Now we are planning to break this down to more local level and using the diagnostic tool in a single directorate to shape how we respond to the health needs assessment. The tool is a living document to return to and track progress. It took us a few days to complete the diagnostic tool initially, but once it is done it can be refreshed quickly.