Charity funds Staff Wellbeing project

A woman is sitting at her desk looking anxious and worried

Read-out from a heartbeat monitor spells out the word life and a hand clings on to it.

“The Best Training I have ever done at the Trust.” 

An 18-month charity funded project to help NHS staff improve their mental health following Covid and lockdown has made important progress despite a backdrop of industrial action, staff sickness and operational pressures according to University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust.

Plymouth Hospitals Charity secured funding from NHS Charities Together for the major initiative to help improve the mental health of NHS Staff which has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from individuals and teams about the support offered. 

Under the guidance of a Mental Wellbeing Trainer, Managers were coached in mental health first aid, holding wellbeing conversations and compassionate leadership. A dedicated staff clinical psychologist also worked with colleagues to provide a resourced and impactful reflective practice programme underpinned with trained psychology support.

In short, a whole spectrum of opportunities for staff were offered throughout the project from sessions where staff shared their stories and experiences of dealing with adversity as well as the creation of wellbeing 'champions' and even a special screening of the film ‘Allelujah’ about the closure of an NHS ward caring for older people.

Julia Bird, Wellbeing for All Psychologist and project lead said:
“When under the kind of relentless pressure that we have experienced in the last few years, staff often prioritise patient needs and neglect their own. Finding ways to support individuals and teams can go some way to reminding staff that they matter too, and that they need time to make sense of some of their experiences, for themselves, their colleagues, their family and ultimately for patients too. Ultimately, staff wellbeing makes a difference to patient care and outcomes – it matters for everyone.
What this grant allowed us to do is provide a different, and complementary layer of support to colleagues, underpinned by psychological expertise and practice. Many of the interventions were designed to support teams, either directly or indirectly. This may have been supporting the development of peer champions, training Managers to better understand themselves and their colleagues, or directly working with teams. Supporting people to better understand themselves in their work makes a difference to them, to their colleagues and ultimately to patients.”

Someone who says she’s really benefitted from Wellbeing For All is Theresia Makatile who’s a Matron for Hepatology & Renal Services at Derriford. She became a ‘Matron Champion’ as the project established a community of more than 90 People Champions across the trust in all departments to promote and encourage peer to peer support and guidance for colleagues. Theresia said:

“The Trust introduced the Matron Champion role as a response to incidences of violence and aggression and the training has helped me to support others in my team. Staff say they feel more supported with someone reaching out to them after these incidents. We certainly access the pastoral support more than we did and I now look after myself better than I used to.” 

Although the project has now come to an end, Dr Julia Bird is in no doubt that its legacy will be felt for many years to come as the Trust continues to operate in difficult times. She said:

“There is a new wellbeing team that can build on some of the work that has begun in this project, as well as develop new initiatives for staff. Ultimately, the importance of staff wellbeing cannot be ignored, and staff are more aware of this than ever. The project planted seeds, helped forge new links between colleagues with different knowledge, experience and skills. It was a beginning, not an end – the work is never ‘done’.  

We couldn’t have done this work without the support of the charitable funding – it’s allowed us to bring new skills to the work and time to learn and think about the ways to embed some of the learning to patient care.”

Corinne Smith, Plymouth Hospitals Charity Manager said..."We were very grateful to work in partnership with NHSCT and to receive this significant grant to support our staff across the Trust during such demanding and difficult years. Even though it's been four years, the generosity of so many has left an indelible mark on UHP. A heartfelt "thank you" goes out to all those who gave to their local hospitals."