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Supporting Staff Wellbeing at Hillview Surgery

14th December 2020

Dr Vasu Siva

Covid-19 has caused unforgettable disruption and challenges to healthcare. Given the added stress and pressure of working in the NHS during a pandemic we felt it was important to take steps to address staff wellbeing – mental, emotional and physical.

It is crucial that we look after ourselves and each other if we are to continue looking after our patients. This is why at Hillview Surgery, we decided to launch our “Holistic Staff Wellbeing” initiative. During our staff meeting we talked about the importance of mental health wellbeing and recognised the impact COVID-19 has had on our staff. We designated three members of the team, “mental health champions” to signpost colleagues to organisations that could provide support and help. We also encouraged staff to speak to a colleague, if they felt that support and advice about their mental health would be valuable and highlighted websites that could help. This was all in addition to an Employment Assistance Programme that we already operated to provide confidential help.

In addition we recognised the importance of self-care. We decided to use ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’, a set of evidence-based health messages to help improve our mental health and wellbeing. This system was developed by the New Economics Foundation and is based on the idea that if individuals change their behaviour to incorporate five-ways-type activities into their daily lives, their subjective wellbeing should improve.

The Five Ways to Wellbeing include:

 Connect

Take notice

Keep learning

Be active

Give

The idea was welcomed by all our staff and on the whole elevated their mood and a sense of belonging in our ‘Hillview community’. We share our achievements during first 10 minutes of our monthly staff meeting. Sharing and openly acknowledging the team work within the practice and the difference this was making is encouraging.

Setting up the ‘Hillcrew’ WhatsApp group enabled staff to keep in touch with each other and in touch with what is happening in the practice. This was particularly useful when staff had to self-isolate due to having symptoms of COVID-19. It helped in the preparation and last minute alterations of rotas and also made the day-to-day running of the practice easier for the managers. Most importantly, staff felt emotionally supported as a result of all this, which they have said improved their general wellbeing. One of the nicest comments was that staff felt more connected with each other now. We definitely feel a sense of unity among the team at Hillview, and I feel we have a better stronger team environment as a result.

Here is how we support our staff to remain active:

Physical activities are paramount importance to our mental health. Regular moderate exercise/relaxation exercises, yoga, dietary/good eating habits and sleep hygiene help us to overcome fatigue and improve our mood.

With this in mind, we incorporated exercises in our day to day busy working lives for all staff to remain healthy and active. We believe the best way of promoting physical activity to patients is to model it amongst the staff. Collective discussions during our staff meeting were productive as it helped staff to understand the benefits of staying healthy physically and mentally.

As part of holistic staff well-being, partners introduced the government supported “cycle to work scheme”. Our practice manager was instrumental in introducing “Go active” initiative to promote healthy living.

Staff were given the option of wearing appropriate trainers/more comfortable shoes to work to encourage extra activity while at work. Our staff handbook was updated to reflect this. They were encouraged to download the app Active 10 which informs how fast one is walking to get health benefits of a 10 minute walk, https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/walking-for-health/. To help improve our team spirit, a weekly collective step count promoting physical activity was introduced to those who wished to participate. Staff were informed of apps available to help increase activity such as Better Health found on the NHS website. An email was sent to all staff encouraging active lifestyles with anonymised participants’ collective step-count. They were reminded to share their own experiences and any other ways to keep active, looking after our wellbeing and staying healthy in every staff meeting. Staff were informed of joining Headspace, currently offering 3 months free to NHS staff.

The idea of “Deskercise” was welcomed by all staff. Movement and awareness of posture is important for everyone, especially while sitting at the desk. “Ten best stretching exercising at your desk” was shared at the staff meeting, explaining how it will ease back pain and boost energy. Neck joint rotation exercise was demonstrated by one of our GP Trainers (via Zoom) to encourage how easy it is to incorporate stretching exercises while at work. All staff agreed to include stretch/rotation exercise for at least 10 mins at the beginning of each meeting in promoting activity.

Our ultimate goal is to ensure and support healthy, active staff which in turn will motivate all our patients. Adapting to new ways of working is always challenging and we are hopeful some of these activities will endure beyond the pandemic.