The Southern Health and Social Care Trust (the Trust) is based in Northern Ireland. The Trust employs around 14,887 people across the four council areas of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon; parts of Newry, Mourne and Downe; and the Mid-Ulster. Their Workplace Health and Wellbeing Framework 2022–2025 is part of their new People Framework and aims to embed health and wellbeing throughout the organisation. 

“What’s different about this framework is that it’s an intentional, systematic, coordinated, integrated approach across our policies and processes, through the three lenses of individual, team and organisation, which is being monitored and driven by our senior leadership team. Our ultimate aim is to create a great place to work: where our people feel valued, cared for and supported, where they feel psychologically safe to speak up when things don’t go as planned or share ideas to make things even better for our workforce and for the population we serve.”
Anne Forsythe, Head of Workforce and Organisational Development  

“In Southern Trust the health and wellbeing of our people couldn’t be more important. It is more than just a moral obligation. Without deliberate attention to this agenda, we will not be able to respond to growing demand for health and social care services across our local community. Put simply, the capacity for, and quality of, patient care is underpinned by the health and wellbeing of our staff. Our Workplace Health and Wellbeing Framework (2022–2025) supporting our new People Framework (2022–2025) is about integrating health and wellbeing throughout the organisation, embedding it in our culture, our leadership and people management practices.”
Maxine Williamson, Deputy HR Director – Workforce and OD 

Creating a culture of wellbeing 

Looking after their people by creating a safe and healthy working environment and a culture of wellbeing is at the heart of the Trust’s ambition to be a great place to work. The People Framework focuses on three people priorities of Wellbeing, Belonging and Growing, and by following this systematic approach to create a better culture where people feel psychologically safe, valued, cared for, and supported, it will create a great place to work. In other words, transforming the workplace and ultimatelytransforming care (improving patient safety).  

To support people to seek help and develop their skills in compassionate self-care and other personal coping mechanisms, the Trust: 

  • supports and develops the capacity and capability of managers to ensure their approach has a positive impact on the experience and wellbeing of their team and themselves 

  • promotes and nurtures a culture of compassionate leadership and teamwork as a way of ensuring people feel cared for and supported 

  • takes all necessary measures and efforts required to keep people safe and well 

  • continues to promote, protect, and improve the health and wellbeing of their people 

  • ensures a relentless focus on the safety, quality, and experience of employees, patients, and service users.  

Developing the health and wellbeing framework 

The Trust’s Workplace Health and Wellbeing Framework 20222025 was developed as the existing Health and Wellbeing Strategy (20182021) was coming to conclusion and as a building block to support the newly launched People Framework (20222025). In developing both frameworks, the Trust was keen to engage as widely as possible with the workforce in their development and there has been a considerable ‘engagement and listening journey.   

A lot has been achieved since launching a health and wellbeing hub in 2018, including setting up a multi-disciplinary Health and Wellbeing Steering Group to develop and roll out an action plan to support staff physical and psychological health, improve the work environment, and support good relationships in the workplace.   

There have been many initiatives, workshops and events along the way, including: 

  • 2018 senior leadership commitment to Take 5 Health and Wellbeing pledge, working groups to roll out activity to support physical and psychological health, signing of a regional HSC Workplace Health and Wellbeing Charter, and launch of a Staff Menopause Toolkit and leaflet. 

  • 2019 establishment of a health champion role, launch of a men’s health toolkit, review of the occupational health and wellbeing service, and building the case for more holistic multi-disciplinary support, including the appointment of a consultant clinical psychologist. 

  • 2020 a focused wellbeing plan in response to COVID-19, launch of a menopause at work policy, and workforce-wide engagement events. 

  • 2021 – a virtual menopause café, guidance for staff on cancer, relaunch of the wellbeing hub UMatter.  

The three wellbeing pillars 

The Trust’s health and wellbeing journey has culminated in the launch of its framework for 20222025, based on three priority pillars of integrated wellbeing: 

Pillar 1: Healthy workplaces (supporting you)

Recognising this is about investing in safe, healthy, inclusive and engaging workplace environments 

The Trust has developed a wide range of holistic support and health-promotion activities to support the ‘healthy workplaces’ pillar, including:  

  • A clear pathway to promote health and wellbeing support and services available to employees, such as clear signposting to resources. 

  • Expansion of its occupational health and wellbeing service (OHWS), with a shift towards ill health prevention and proactive provision by specialist occupational health and wellbeing practitioners.  

  • A new occupational health psychology service that provides specialist trauma-informed psychological assessment and interventions to employees, managers and teams impacted by work-related stress/trauma.  

  • Enhanced external spaces to help employees enjoy the wellbeing benefits of nature and being outdoors. This includes providing positive outdoor spaces for people to work, rest and recuperate across its sites, with outdoor seating, retractable awning outside canteens to provide a more useable external eating space, and external landscaping to bring back colour-producing plants and shrubs to improve psychological wellbeing. 

  • Enhancing the Healthcare Library with books and resources (including online versions) dedicated to wellbeing. The library now has a standing desk, under-desk cycle, relaxation seating, shiatsu massage chairs, light boxes (reducing the impact of SAD), and conference bags for delivering and returning books via internal mail. 

  • Menopause awareness sessions and training for wellbeing champions. 

  • New resources to promote and support financial wellbeing. 

Pillar 2: Healthy relationships (staying connected)

Recognising relationships we form with others and the ways people work together with civility, respect and compassion are vital to mental and emotional wellbeing 

The wellbeing benefits of social cohesion, including peer and line manager support, is fully recognised in the Trust’s wellbeing framework. Its ‘healthy relationships’ pillar is brought to life through a wide range of training and coaching opportunities, leadership and management development programmes, and other initiatives, such as: 

  • Schwartz Roundsthese are forums that facilitate reflective practice and give people from all disciplines the opportunity to reflect on the emotional impact of their work 

  • development opportunities, including: 

    • a coaching service 

    • training interventions such as ‘looking after self/others’, ‘every conversation matters’ and ‘how we treat our people matters’  

    • toolkits covering the Trust’s values, civility and support to call out inappropriate behaviours 

    • leadership and management development programmes on topics, such as being an emotionally intelligent leader 

    • team development initiatives, such as ‘getting better together’ 

    • line manager training on people management issues, such as managing conflict, bullying and harassment, raising concerns, flexible working and attendance 

    • senior leadership team’s visibility plan with activities to promote engagement between senior leaders and the workforce, including the weekly opportunity to chat with the chief executive and leadership walks 

    • ‘Your Appraisal’ – the new policy focuses on the quality of conversation and includes having a wellbeing conversation.   

Pillar 3: Healthy body and mind (being you)

Recognising the links between good mental and physical health  

The Trust has developed a wealth of initiatives to promote good physical and mental health that focuses on good wellbeing, ill health prevention, early intervention to help prevent issues from escalating, and rehabilitation support to support people with ongoing health conditions. This includes:

  • deep relaxation workshops 

  • guided mediation sessions 

  • mental health awareness training for managers 

  • various physical activity sessions 

  • a comprehensive ‘recognising and responding to stress’ policy and promotion of the Trust’s Talking Toolkit resource to help managers and teams to prevent and manage stress 

  • fast-track physiotherapy and work conditioning classes 

  • long COVID-19 multi-disciplinary rehabilitation team made up of a specialist physiotherapist, occupational therapist and cognitive behavioural therapist this team provides support, advice and rehabilitation for those experiencing COVID-19-related symptoms beyond four weeks following a COVID-19 infection which are impacting on their ability to return to work, or those who are in work but struggling. The aim is to support employees to improve their health, functional abilities and quality of life and facilitate a successful and sustainable return to work.   

The Health and Wellbeing Framework operates in parallel with, and complements, the Trust’s People Framework (20222025). The three wellbeing pillars support the organisation’s three people priorities of ‘wellbeing, belonging and growing’. Both frameworks were developed to be mutually reinforcing to drive a fully integrated wellbeing approach, with positive cultural change at its heart. The ambition is to create a great place to work, where people feel engaged, valued and work well together.   

A strategic and systematic approach 

The Trust views the many different support services, wellbeing activities and policy provision as mutually reinforcing to achieve its aim of being a great place to work. As Anne Forsythe explains: A defining feature of our approach is that it is systematic and can therefore lead to better and more sustainable outcomes for our people; we are changing the lens through which we view employee wellbeing.  

The Trust does not view health and wellbeing interventions as standalone but as part of a strategic whole and mutually reinforcing in terms of outcomes. This reflects the organisational approach it takes to improve health and wellbeing, for its people and also for its service users. Health and wellbeing interventions for individuals are not enough, comments Anne. We embed our framework at an organisational, team and individual level by linking it to our corporate plan and through the foundations of compassionate and visible leadership combined with a culture of inclusion and belonging.  

Impact so far 

Eighty-seven per cent of respondents agree that the Trust takes positive action on health and wellbeing. (Regional HSC Staff Survey, 2019).  

Regional post-COVID-19 health and social care staff wellbeing survey 2021 results indicate: 

  • 79.8% of respondents are aware of wellbeing support available within their Trust. 

  • 88.5% of respondents agreed the organisation takes positive action on health and wellbeing. 

  • 92.9% of respondents agreed the organisation provides advice on mental health and wellbeing. 

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