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Board level leadership is vital in promoting good staff health

Mike West

28 November 2012

The Staff Health Improvement project's new report, released today, argues that proactive board level leadership, strong organisational values that explicitly link to staff health and staff engagement are amongst the elements required for successful implementation of staff health and wellbeing values.

The report, endorsed by the NHS Chief Executive and carried out by the Health and Work Development Unit (HWDU), makes absolute sense, since cultures are shaped primarily by leaders through their expression and enactment of values. If the board makes it clear that staff health and wellbeing are vital, staff will respond. When boards monitor, support, and model good staff health and wellbeing, staff will be more likely to take care of their own health. This is vital in organisations whose missions are to care for the health and wellbeing of those in their communities. If staff health is not a priority then there is a fault line across the cultures of NHS organisations. The NHS is rightly concerned with managing everyone’s health in society and NHS staff should be a priority since they provide care and model good practice.

The NEF five ways to wellbeing should be promoted and modelled by board members: spending time with people we love and who love us; exercising regularly; continuing to learn new skills throughout our lives; paying attention to the here and now; and helping others. These are the key factors determining our health and wellbeing. Boards must consider how they can help their NHS organisations promote these approaches amongst staff as well as spreading knowledge more widely. Stressed, anxious, frustrated staff will not have the emotional capital available to provide compassionate care and their emotions will be contagious, leading to patient anxiety, stress and fear. Creating cultures characterised by positivity, flourishing, wellbeing and compassion is key to the future of a safe, effective NHS and board leadership in this area is vital.

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