In response to the NHS People Plan and Covid-19, the “Health and Wellbeing Conversations” programme was conceived, in collaboration with NHS England and The Wellbeing Collective, with the ambitious goal of instigating health and wellbeing discussions among every member of the NHS. The programme not only sought to address individual health concerns but also embraced the broader spectrum of flexible working arrangements and championed accessibility, and inclusion. This case study delves into the comprehensive approach taken to achieve these objectives and the impact it had on fostering a culture of support within the NHS.
The overarching goal of the “Health and Wellbeing Conversations” programme was to establish a pervasive culture within the NHS where every member actively participates in meaningful health and wellbeing conversations. Aligned with the NHS People Plan, the initiative was not merely a procedural requirement but a strategic effort to embed a holistic approach to employee well-being within the fabric of the organisation.
Supported by comprehensive national resources and a dedicated training program in 2021-22, the initiative aimed to equip participants, especially line managers and those entrusted with caring responsibilities for staff, with the skills and tools necessary to facilitate these crucial conversations. The programme recognised that health and wellbeing extend beyond physical aspects, encompassing the multifaceted dimensions of an individual’s life, work, and personal circumstances.
The initial phase of the programme strategically focused on line managers and individuals with caring responsibilities, recognising their pivotal roles in fostering a supportive work environment. Line managers, irrespective of profession, banding, or grade, were identified as key influencers capable of driving cultural change within their teams. Simultaneously, individuals with caring responsibilities, such as Union and network representatives, were acknowledged for their unique position in advocating for the wellbeing of their peers.
However, the programme went beyond these specific roles, extending its reach to encompass the entire NHS system. The inclusivity of the initiative acknowledged that wellbeing is a collective responsibility and that every member of the organisation, regardless of their role, contributes to the overall health of the NHS community.
The 3.5-hour virtual sessions were meticulously designed to cater to the needs of line managers, offering them practical skills and frameworks for conducting confident and effective wellbeing conversations.
By broadening the programme’s scope to include the entire NHS system, the initiative sought to create a shared understanding and commitment to the importance of health and wellbeing conversations. In doing so, it aimed to foster a collaborative and supportive culture that transcends individual roles and hierarchies, ultimately contributing to the overarching goal of a healthier and more inclusive NHS.
The primary challenge encountered during the programme’s implementation was the high-volume rollout across diverse roles within the NHS. Engaging frontline workers, who often lacked access to traditional office technology, presented a unique hurdle. This was particularly evident in services such as ambulance crews and porters, where the nature of the work demanded innovative solutions for participation.
To address these challenges, the programme coordinators implemented targeted outreach strategies, leveraging various communication channels and providing alternative avenues for participation. This included exploring mobile-friendly platforms and deploying on-site sessions for non-office staff, ensuring that the benefits of the programme reached all corners of the NHS.
Recognising the varied schedules and responsibilities of NHS staff, the programme was thoughtfully designed to be delivered virtually within a condensed 3.5-hour timeframe. This approach aimed to maximise participation across different roles and shifts. Moreover, the decision to roll out the programme across the entire NHS system, with a target of 5000 delegates, exemplifies a commitment to inclusivity and accessibility.
In addition to virtual accessibility, the programme incorporated a vital element of psychological support. Acknowledging the potential intensity of the sessions, a supervision arrangement with The Wellbeing Collective, equipped with trained psychologists, was established. This measure not only ensured the emotional well-being of participants during and after sessions but also emphasised a holistic approach to health and wellbeing.
The success stories emerging from the Wellbeing Conversations programme reflect not only the effectiveness of the training but also the profound impact it had on individuals and teams within the NHS. One particularly glowing testimonial resonates with the sentiment shared by many participants, characterising the training as an unparalleled experience in the realm of wellbeing education.
The testimonial articulated that the training stood out as the best wellbeing-focused session ever attended. Central to this acclaim was the commendation of the programme’s framework, praised for its simplicity and practical applicability. Participants expressed how the framework provided an easy-to-follow guide, allowing conversations to organically navigate through various stages. This emphasis on simplicity not only facilitated comprehension but also empowered participants to seamlessly integrate the acquired skills into their professional interactions.
The engaging nature of the sessions was another highlight acknowledged in the success stories. Participants noted the passion and enthusiasm of the facilitators, particularly highlighting the session’s leader, Anthony Graham. This passion not only kept participants engaged throughout the 3.5-hour training but also infused a sense of dynamism and purpose into the discussions.
The breakout activities, designed for hands-on practice and self-exploration, were lauded for their effectiveness in translating theoretical concepts into practical skills. These activities not only provided opportunities for skill development but also fostered a deeper understanding of oneself and others.
Participants recognised the training as a catalyst for positive change, offering a transformative experience that extended beyond professional settings. The testimonials underscored the belief that the programme could benefit individuals on both personal and team levels, making it a valuable asset for enhancing the overall wellbeing of NHS staff.
The Wellbeing Conversations programme yielded valuable lessons and identified best practices that resonate with the broader organisational context. The evidence gathered points to the transformative power of cultivating a culture centred around listening and mutual support.
The programme underscored that regular, supportive, coaching-style conversations contribute significantly to creating an environment characterised by trust, compassion, and respect. The emphasis on these qualities not only fosters positive interpersonal relationships but also establishes a foundation for a workplace culture that prioritises the well-being of its members.
The recognition that employees thrive in an environment where their well-being is actively supported reaffirms the interconnectedness of individual happiness and organisational success. This positive impact cascades into other critical areas, positively influencing attendance, staffing levels, workload management, and the overall quality of service provided.
The overarching lesson learned is that a well-timed and skilful conversation has the potential to be a transformative force, positively changing someone’s life for the better. By incorporating these lessons into the organisational fabric, the NHS can continue to build on its commitment to the wellbeing of its staff, fostering an environment that not only listens but actively supports the growth and flourishing of its diverse workforce.