A first-of-a-kind mobile phone app has been designed exclusively to help tackle mental health issues among NHS staff after a study by Bath Spa University identified some of the possible causes of psychosocial stress.
Called Healthy Outcomes at Work (H.O.W.), it has initially been designed for staff in three South West NHS trusts who were surveyed as part of the study.
They cited high volumes of work, unrealistic deadlines, a lack of resources, and poor management around mental health as some of the main causes of psychological distress.
As well as negatively impacting staff wellbeing; stress and sickness absence also have huge implications for the quality of care that patients receive, so we hope the research and app can go some way to helping those affected
H.O.W. was devised by Dr Jermaine Ravalier, reader of work and wellbeing at the university in response to the research, which was conducted in collaboration with Andrew McVicar, a professor in psychology and healthcare at Anglia Ruskin University; and Charlotte Boichat, postdoctoral research assistant at Bath Spa University.
The app offers dedicated sections on the symptoms of stress, the sources of support available, and tips for senior managers on how to improve wellbeing among the workforce.
Dr Ravalier’s research, which was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), follows a recent study by the NHS which found the healthcare sector to have higher-than-average levels of stress-related sickness absence of all job sectors in the country.
According to the latest NHS Staff Survey, approximately 40% of NHS staff take sick leave due to work-related stress.
The research also highlights a number of interventions that senior managers can make to help improve employee wellbeing, including more-frequent supervision sessions to improve relationships; regular team meetings; mental health education for managers; efforts to change the environmental culture around taking breaks; and promoting an environment where problematic relationships can be reported and improved.
Dr Ravalier said: “It’s shocking that nearly 40% of NHS staff have reported feeling unwell as a result of work-related stress and it’s clear to us that more needs to be done to tackle the issue.
“As well as negatively impacting staff wellbeing; stress and sickness absence also have huge implications for the quality of care that patients receive, so we hope the research and app can go some way to helping those affected.
“In time we’d like to see these resources being made available to NHS trusts up and down the country.”
The research and app will be presented at the upcoming Creating and Sustaining a Healthy Workforce Conference on Friday, 13 September at Bath Spa University’s Newton Park Campus.
It’s shocking that nearly 40% of NHS staff have reported feeling unwell as a result of work-related stress and it’s clear to us that more needs to be done to tackle the issue
The one-day conference will raise awareness of the importance of creating and sustaining a healthy workforce.
Dr Ravalier said: “It’s so important to talk about the things the industry can do to improve wellbeing across the board, which, in turn, will have a positive impact on staff and their patients.”
Bath Spa University’s Dr Elaine Wainwright has also conducted a study which looks specifically at stress levels amongst trainee anaesthetists across the South West and Wales.
And her research reveals that almost 40% of trainee anaesthetists experience high levels of stress caused by excessive non-clinical workloads, such as such as paperwork, and exhaustion.
Commenting on her findings, Dr Wainwright said: “This research is the first to explore, in depth, why trainee anaesthetists in the UK, who express great love for their jobs, may also struggle with the demanding, complex, extremely-valuable work they do.
“It was troubling to hear how many doctors expressed high levels of work stress. And a key recommendation arising from the study is enabling vital non-clinical work to have dedicated time within training.”