NHS focusing on staff ‘emotional health’ to improve patient care

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The NHS will be focusing more on the ‘emotional health’ of its staff in order to improve patient care, assistant director of employment services at NHS Employers Ruth Warden has said.

Speaking at the Good Day at Work conference, organised by wellbeing specialists Robertson Cooper, Warden said the Mid-Staffordshire scandal and subsequent Francis Report proved NHS staff “must have been in a bad place emotionally and mentally” to allow such bad things to happen.

“Talking about emotional health and wellbeing was very difficult,” she said. “There was a stigma and a lack of confidence [in talking about it].”

She revealed that the NHS has been working with Robertson Cooper to develop a simple emotional health toolkit, using language that resonates with staff. This resource is going to be rolled out across trusts in the next few months, encouraging employees at all levels to take responsibility for their own and their colleagues’ emotional health.

Warden said the aim is “to minimise the impact of poor emotional wellbeing on patients”, while recognising that working in the NHS is a high-pressured and tough job.

She added that NHS Employers had decided to deliberately avoid the term mental health in favour of emotional health. “We all have emotional health as we all have physical health,” she said. “On some days our emotional health is better than others, just as with our physical health.

“What does it look like when someone isn’t well emotionally? If you can start that conversation, it will really make a difference.”

Speaking on a panel with Warden was former Stafford Hospital A&E nurse Helene Donnelly, who is now an ambassador for cultural change at the Trust. She called on NHS leaders to “value [their] staff”.

“Empower them to speak up, listen properly and act,” she added. “If you can’t act tell them why.”

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