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Thursday, 17 April 2014

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Campaign to cut sick levels among Cumbrian hospital staff

A campaign is being launched to help boost the health of hospital staff and reduce sickness levels.

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Damian Gallagher: ‘Initiatives like this will help’

From today, a confidential telephone counselling service will be open to employees at Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary and the West Cumberland Hospital, Whitehaven.

Employees can use it to talk about any issues that may be affecting them, either at home or in the workplace. That can include stress, depression, health problems or financial and relationship worries.

At the same time, online resources are also being provided to help with weight management, improving fitness and managing stress.

All hospital employees will be able to access the services confidentially and for free as part of a 12-month trial.

It is hoped that giving extra support to staff will improve overall wellbeing and tackle high sickness rates, which has been a problem for years.

Damian Gallagher, human resources director at North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, launched a similar initiative at his previous trust in Blackpool and said it did have a positive effect.

“If you have problems outside work you will also have problems in work, and vice-versa. Staff absence has been getting better over the past few years. It was very high but we’ve now got it down from 5.5 per cent to 4.5 per cent.

“But we want to reduce that even further. We’ll never stop it completely but our target is 3.5 per cent, which I believe is achievable. Initiatives like this will help,” he explained.

He said the Your Wellbeing campaign will complement the trust’s existing staff support services, which include occupational health advice and face-to-face counselling.

But he said what’s great about the new resources is that staff can ring up or log on 24 hours a day, so if they can access them from home.

“In Blackpool it was really welcomed by staff. It helped bring down sickness but also there are a lot of people who are still coming to work who may be ill or have problems – things like alcohol problems, depression etc. This is a way they can get help,” he said.

Mr Gallagher added that although the services are anonymous and run by independent organisations, the trust will get regular reports detailing common themes being raised.

“If a lot of people have been ringing up about stress, for example, we would be able to concentrate on that from an HR perspective,” he said.

From today posters will be going up across both hospital sites advertising the phone lines and websites.

The counselling service is run by Positive People First, whose trained advisors can provide independent support.

Meanwhile, the Wellbeing Zone will be accessible for all staff, as well as family members over the age of 18.

The online resource offers a combination of personally tailored programmes and general health information.

There will also be discounts from selected businesses such as gyms and health clubs.

The trust is also setting up a dedicated health and wellbeing group to tackle issues such as stress in the workplace.

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