Zumba And Counselling For Southampton NHS Staff

2 September 2015, 07:27

Zumba class

NHS staff in Southampton are going to be offered physiotherapy, Zumba classes and counselling to improve their attendance at work.

It's one of ten trusts in England taking part in a new programme to save the health service money by having less people taking time off sick.

Simon Stevens, NHS England's chief executive, says creating healthy workplaces is ``no longer a nice-to-have, it's a must-do''.

He's using a speech to announce a raft of measures aimed at cutting the NHS bill for staff sickness, which stands at £2.4 billion a year.

The drive, backed by £5 million of funding, will target 1.3 million workers and includes an occupational health service for GPs suffering from burnout and stress.

Speaking at the NHS Innovation Expo conference in Manchester, Mr Stevens will say NHS organisations must serve healthier food, promote exercise, reduce stress and provide regular health checks.

The checks will focus on mental health and musculoskeletal problems - the two biggest causes of sickness absence across the NHS.

Mr Stevens will say:

``NHS staff have some of the most critical but demanding jobs in the country. When it comes to supporting the health of our own workforce, frankly the NHS needs to put its own house in order.

``At a time when arguably the biggest operational challenge facing hospitals is converting overspends on temporary agency staff into attractive flexible permanent posts, creating healthy and supportive workplaces is no longer a nice-to-have, it's a must-do.

``And at a time when the pressures on GPs have never been greater, we need to extend the local practitioner health programmes that have been shown to help GPs stay healthy and get back to work when sick.

``Equally, it's time for PFI (private finance initiative) contractors and catering firms to 'smell the coffee' - ditch junk food from hospitals and serve up affordable and healthy options instead.''

Staff will be able to undergo regular NHS health checks at work to make them more accessible, while workers will have access to physiotherapy, mental health talking therapies, help to stop smoking and weight-loss services.

Healthy food options will be promoted in all restaurants, cafes and vending machines following meetings between NHS England and catering contractors.

Catering firms will be urged to publish nutritional information and keep to ``appropriate'' portion sizes.

Organisations will establish and promote exercise programmes, such as local yoga or Zumba classes, team sports and discounts on buying bikes for cycling to work.

The push will be led by a director at board level in each organisation, with training for managers to support staff.

There will also be an increased focus on creating ``a positive working environment'' to tackle bullying and discrimination.

In a bid to retain GPs, who often cite stress as a reason for leaving the NHS, specialist services will be developed from next year.

These will build on regional programmes, such as the London Practitioner Health Programme, which has treated more than 1,600 doctors with addiction and mental health problems.

Fiona Dalton, chief executive at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“We are delighted to be one of a small number of organisations selected to participate in such an exciting national project to improve the health of staff throughout the NHS.
 
“Staff across our hospital trust undertake demanding and often emotionally challenging jobs and we want to look after them with the care and compassion with which we ask them to look after patients.

"As part of truly valuing our staff, it is absolutely right that we provide opportunities to help them care for and improve their own health and wellbeing.
 
“Over the coming weeks, we will build on the schemes already available through our occupational health team and our existing strengths in research, including our national Nutritional Biomedical Research Centre and the National Centre of Excellence for Musculoskeletal Health and Work, and create further support for the health of our staff."

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