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NHS workers to get healthy workplace check

Audit aims to cut staff sickness absence and improve patient care

Mark Gould

Friday, 06 August 2010

The Royal College of Physicians is to conduct the first national audit within the NHS of NICE public health guidance for the workplace.

Carried out over the summer and autumn, the audit will involve all NHS trusts in England with an overall aim of improving health and wellbeing of all staff, cut sickness absence and improve patient care.

The audit is in response to the Boorman Review, published last year, in which occupational health expert Dr Steve Boorman, the director of occupational health for the Royal Mail, called for staff health and wellbeing to be embedded in the core business of NHS organisations.

The review revealed that many trusts have pockets of activity relating to staff health and wellbeing, but there is no overall picture of the situation across the board.

Trusts will be able to measure the extent, and quality, of their implementation of six pieces of NICE public health guidance relevant to the workplace. These are:

• Managing long-term sickness absence and incapacity for work
• Promoting physical activity in the workplace
• Promoting mental wellbeing through productive and healthy working conditions
• Workplace interventions to promote smoking cessation
• Obesity: guidance on the prevention, identification, assessment and management of overweight and obesity in adults and children
• Promoting and creating built or natural environments that encourage and support physical activity

All participating organisations will receive a comprehensive confidential staff health report in March 2011 mapped against the evidence base and the national benchmark data.

This will enable trusts to identify gaps and spot opportunities to develop their staff health and wellbeing strategies.

The audit will enable trusts to improve quality of care and patient safety through the reduction in sickness absence, as well as increasing productivity in line the Quality, Innovation, Productivity and Prevention (QIPP) agenda. 

The RCP’s health and work development unit will carry out the audit. Its director Dr Siân Williams, commented:
‘Working for the NHS is about to get tougher and staff deserve the best management practices and services to maintain their health. And evidence shows that healthy staff deliver better care to patients.  The audit will help trusts improve their internal practices for keeping staff healthy and happy and also share best practice with others.’

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