Nursing Minds is one of C3 Collaborating for Health (C3)’s current projects working to support the mental health needs of UK nurses and midwives. At the end of August, we announced the project and the timeline moving forward in this blog post. Earlier in the year C3 secured funding from the Burdett Trust for Nursing for a project to explore how best to make progress on responding to the escalating evidence of mental health related sickness absence amongst UK nurses and midwives – and the distress that this causes to the individuals concerned.
Where are we now?
In the time following our last blog post on Nursing Minds, the project steering group met for the first time. Caroline Stanger – C3’s vice chair – hosted a meeting this past week including a panel of experts in the field.
Speakers on the Panel
This panel included Paul Litchfield, a subject expert and Occupational Health physician with a special interest in mental health in the workplace and in the impact t
hat the social determinants of health have on work. The panel also featured Anne Harriss, who is. the first nurse to be President of Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM) as well as Steve Boorman, a member of the NHS England health and wellbeing board and chair of the Council for Work and Health also spoke. As an Occupational Health physician , Dr. Boorman has championed nurses’ health and has shaped the UK narrative around health and wellbeing in the NHS for a decade. Charlotte McArdle spoke as chief nurse for Northern Ireland, committed to shaping policy as a lever for change and is concerned about how nurses leave themselves vulnerable to poor health. She also is concerned about how we protect nurses of the future. A
nother member of the panel was Emma Wadey, who as head of mental health nursing in NHS England is addressing the wider issues and specifically addressing suicide prevention. Harpreet Sood, a GP,C3 Trustee, and Health Education England (HEE) board member, is committed to innovation in skills and working practices in this area. The panel met and started an important commentary on how to address this serious challenge that blights the lives of so many working nurses.
Discussions from the Panel
These speakers were joined by C3 staff – Christine Hancock, David Okoro & Tom Sandford – who are working on the project. Christine Hancock outlined the history of C3’s commitment to preventative measures to improve workplace health and nurses’ health. Christine discussed how this project builds upon strands of existing work, as well as on a history of collaboration with the Burdett Trust. Prior work with Burdett Trust has focused on issues such as nurses living with obesity.
After Ms. Hancock’s presentation, the steering group reflected on various pieces of literature on the topics. The steering group started with Steve Boorman’s 2009 review of the health of the NHS workforce, through to the 2019 HEE Commission on the mental wellbeing of NHS staff and learners, and on to the late 2019 SOM review for the RCN Foundation. An important point was raised on the subsequent links to post COVID concerns about risks to the Black and Asian nursing workforces.
Mental Health Tool Kit
One of the key aspects of the Nursing Minds project is the development of a mental health toolkit specifically for nurses. David Okoro updated the group on the progress so far. Updates include the development of survey and consultation processes with nurses, which will ensure the work has a mandate and steer from working nurses. An additional aspect of the tool kit focuses on branding. Getting the branding right is important – as is its bespoke design for nurses One key consideration to keep in mind while developing the tool kit is that nurses must realise that their own health shapes what they can offer patients.
Steps Moving Forward
The group reflected on the evidence that when nurses feel that they cannot deliver the care they believe is needed, this generates personal distress. To address this concern, it is important the project is in communication with the safe staffing agenda and focuses on the critical dimension of workplace health and safety . One suggestion for going forward is the need for managers to take action on nurses’ workplace concerns.
The group discussed how we will go about the changing of the policy environment elements of the project. We noted the observation that the NHS does great analysis/reports but that instead of implementing the recommendations of these, the NHS has a tendency to go back and do further diagnosis which stalls implementation for at least another year and which loses crucial momentum around an issue.
We now have, through a succession of reports, a commentary on the need for changing of the policy environment dimensions of nurses’ wellbeing at work. These address the importance of developing good working environments for nurses and midwives by changing workplace factors that affect their wellbeing and effectiveness at work. These themes in the related literature will be reviewed during the project with 15 key leaders who can make changes to better understand the barriers and how to make the evidence based improvements that people believe need to happen.
We will keep you in touch with progress.