Over the past year, Natalie Brayford, an Integrative Counsellor at the University Hospitals of North Midlands has supported frontline keyworkers, supervisory and management employees to help them deal with the pressures of working through the COVID-19 pandemic. We spoke to Natalie to find out what more could be done to help teams with their health and wellbeing.

What should NHS leaders be thinking about when it comes to staff health and wellbeing?

The first step is to put yourself in the shoes of your people and consider what support they might need. What are common challenges that they face? The more you understand what people need, the more you can create an effective way to support them.

Doing the basics, like providing access to phone lines and putting up posters is great, but without really understanding the needs of your team, your actions can feel like a box ticking exercise. 

I think it’s important for leadership teams to think about how they provide access to support. With busy lives and many commitments, if things aren’t simple, clear, and easy to do, people are less likely to use whatever resources are available to them.

In a healthcare setting, I believe that staff can really benefit from an accessible, friendly face that they can build up a relationship with. It creates a way in for them and helps them feel valued, as there’s a space for their voice to be heard. Managers should ask themselves if this type of support could play a role in supporting their staff wellbeing.


What role does the manager play in helping people with their wellbeing?

In my experience working with Managers in the NHS, one of the main themes I regularly hear is about the best way to create a good balance. There are so many different pressures on managers; delivering what their boss needs, getting their day job done, while making sure their teams are productive and feeling looked after at the same time - especially during covid-19, where infection prevention became even more crucial to ensure the safety and health of staff.

By equipping a manager with the right guidance and support you can make a real difference here.

Not only can it help take the pressure off but it can inspire confidence by knowing the most appropriate action to take in a range of situations. 

For example, I created a manager’s toolkit and wellness action plan, which provides a step by step guide to dealing with health and wellbeing in the workplace. These resources not only help protect a manager’s mental health by equipping them with the right tools to do the job, it also helps them create and maintain a safe space for their team.


How is technology helping to support employees with their wellbeing?

It can often be difficult for people to go to their manager and talk about how they’re feeling. Making yourself vulnerable and asking for help is not always easy to do.

Technology can really help overcome that barrier by giving people a direct route to accessing support. It can also make them feel more confident about being open with what they are experiencing. 

We spend so much time at work, I think the more NHS Trusts can consider how technology can support their teams, the better. A great place to start is to create an online hub for your Trust with information about all the services available to your employees.

Think about it like this. We have the right culture and controls in place to ensure physical health and safety, we must do that for our mental health as well. 


What would you like to see change in the next 12 months?

There really is so much education that still needs to happen to normalise talking about our personal health and wellbeing, so I’d like to see leadership teams really push to embed new ways to make that happen. 
A couple of ideas could be

  • Talking to your staff. Find out what they need and what will make the most difference

  • If not already, think about the health and wellbeing strategy for your Trust

  • As a first step consider creating an online hub as a central point of reference

  • Think about the balance of digital vs face to face support 

  • Decide how you’ll measure the impact you want to have

It’s great that it’s a priority now. We all need to make sure it stays that way. 

You can find out more about the work that Natalie does with Sodexo at University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust here

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Natalie Brayford - NHS wellbeing

Natalie Brayford

Natalie Brayford is an Integrative Counsellor at the University Hospitals of North Midlands. Over the past year, Natalie has delivered over 400 on-site counselling sessions to improve healthcare employees' psychological and emotional health. You can find out more about the work that Natalie does with Sodexo at University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust here

July 27, 2021

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