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Supporting good mental health for the NHS workforce

NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk and NHS West Suffolk clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) yesterday signed an employer pledge with Time to Change – committing to encourage staff to talk about mental health issues, promote good mental wellbeing and challenge stigma in the workplace.

Time to Change is run nationally by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Health and supports people to be open about mental health issues and bring and end to discrimination.
 
The decision by the CCGs to sign up highlights the importance of supporting good mental wellbeing in the workplace. With mental illness cited as one of the primary causes of sickness absence, the creation of a positive atmosphere for discussion can deliver tangible benefits for both the employer and employee, with the employee gaining improved health and happiness and the employer gaining through increased productivity and staff retention rates.


As part of the pledge signing the CCGs have developed an action plan outlining how they will meet its requirements. This plan, which features 24 actions to be undertaken by the CCGs to support the workforce includes:
• All staff members being offered mental health awareness training by Suffolk Mind. This training will help staff understand their mental health needs and empower them to tackle and best take control of any mental health issues
• Volunteer staff members to train as Mental Health Champions to promote Time to Change principles
• Line managers are to receive training so that they are confident in discussing mental health issues with their staff
• Giving mental health discussion a bigger place in back-to-work interviews for staff returning from sickness absence

Commenting on the signing the CCGs' Chief Officer, Dr Ed Garratt, said: “Our NHS staff are an incredible asset who work hard for the people across east and west Suffolk to commission the best and most effective health services.

“There’s no doubt working for the NHS can be challenging. This is why it is so important that we do all we can to promote good mental and physical wellbeing in the workplace. Everyone benefits and we are determined that over the coming months and years we will see happier staff who are feeling more fulfilled in their jobs.

“I am really pleased that we have reached the standards set by Time to Change which have enabled us to sign the pledge.”

Jo Loughran, Director of Time to Change, said: “We know it can be hard to talk about mental health, which is why we’re supporting employers to open up; to talk and to listen. Too many people with mental health problems are made to feel isolated, ashamed and worthless, but with the right support, those of us with mental health problems can recover and have equal opportunities in all areas of life. Everyone’s attitude makes a difference and it’s fantastic to see organisations like the two CCGs taking the lead.

“Many leading employers have found that making a strategic commitment to the mental wellbeing of their workforce not only benefits their staff but also their bottom-line, improving productivity and staff retention. With one in six British workers experiencing mental illness it's time for businesses to make a change and start creating more mentally healthy workplaces."

Cheryl Godber, UNISON Regional Organiser, said "With more and more pressure placed on the NHS, with fewer staff in turn leading to increases in time lost to mental health related sickness, it is genuinely refreshing and very welcoming to see the CCGs signing up to this pledge. As key employers in Suffolk this action by the CCGs should set an example to other employers in the area and encourage them to proactively work with Time to Change and take employee mental health issues seriously."      


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