5 February 2014

An audit, amongst 73% of NHS trusts in England, of public health workplace guidance by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), has concluded that NHS trusts are failing to support their staff’s health and mental well-being.

In a statement, NICE, the health watchdog, said that nearly a quarter of trusts do not monitor their staff's mental well-being, while only 57% have a mental well-being policy in place, even though mental health is one of the leading causes for long-term sickness absence among the NHS workforce.

In addition:

  • just 44% of trusts were found to have a policy in place for physical activity and only 28% a plan to tackle staff obesity

  • while 76% of organisations offer healthy food choices in staff restaurants, only 27% offer similar healthy food choices to those working night shifts

  • only 31% of trusts monitor long term sickness absence by age

  • 38% of trusts do not allow staff to attend smoking cessation services during working hours without loss of pay.

The audit focused on recommendations for employers set out in six pieces of NICE public health guidance covering:

  • the management of long-term sickness absence

  • promoting mental well-being

  • obesity

  • smoking cessation

  • promoting environments that encourage physical activity

  • physical activity in the workplace.

Commenting on the audit, Professor Mike Kelly, Director of Public Health at NICE, said, “NICE has produced a suite of guidance that can help employers look after the health and mental well-being of their staff. Sadly, the findings of this latest audit show that more needs to be done encourage trusts to adopt this guidance. NHS trusts need to take staff health and well-being seriously to ensure productivity at a time when there is increased pressure to make efficiency savings.”