£16m Workforce Wellbeing Programme launched to support NHS staff


The co-designed wellbeing programme will run for three years and will be match-funded by NHS England.

NHS Charities Together, the national, independent charity caring for the NHS, has launched a £16m Workforce Wellbeing Programme to support NHS staff across the UK. The programme, which was announced at the charity’s annual member conference for more than 230 NHS charities, aims to improve NHS staff health and wellbeing, in turn making sure patients are provided with the care they need.

NHS Charities Together will commit an initial £6.0152m to support healthcare staff across the UK, with the fund being shared proportionately across the four nations, along with aspirations to fund a further £5 million over the duration of the programme.

In England the independent charity’s contribution will be match-funded by NHS England, which will contribute £5 million to the programme as part of its People Plan to support staff wellbeing.

The Workforce Wellbeing Programme will run for three years, with initiatives co-designed and co-led by NHS staff. Support will be tailored to the individual needs of the NHS organisations and their workforces, supplementing existing support provided to staff.

After a period of co-design with NHS staff, NHS England and others throughout the summer, the charity will invite NHS charities in partnership with their associated NHS Trusts or Health Boards to apply for grants from the Autumn. The impact of projects will be monitored and evaluated so that learnings can be shared and scaled across the UK.

NHS Charities Together has, to date, allocated more than £153 million in funding for projects supporting NHS staff, patients and volunteers. These include counselling services, helplines, and other mental health support services for NHS staff, as well as training for emergency responders and research into long Covid. It has also funded more than 325 community organisations to tackle health inequalities and prevention services.

Ellie Orton OBE, CEO of NHS Charities Together, said: “NHS staff work under immense pressure with unprecedented staff shortages and vacancies and the extra help we provide to support their wellbeing and mental health is now more important than ever. The NHS needs to be able to attract and retain the caring workforce to look after the ageing population and meet the growing needs of the public, who face more complex and long-term conditions than ever before.

“There’s lot of work going on across Trusts to support the wellbeing and mental health of NHS staff but more needs to be done. We’re delighted that NHS England has matched our £5m investment in support across England, and we are also putting proportionate investment across the devolved nations. We have ambitions for this programme to grow so that we can make sure we continue to deliver this important and much-needed support for as long as it’s needed.”

Amanda Pritchard, Chief Executive of NHS England said: “Our hardworking NHS staff are busier than ever but go the extra mile for patients every day, so it’s right that we look to do everything we can as employers to support their health and wellbeing.

“As part of our NHS Long Term Workforce Plan every local employer should have a comprehensive offer for their staff to help them stay well and stay within the health service, but this new programme will support those small, extra improvements which staff tell us will make a big difference to their working lives.

“Charities have played an important role alongside the NHS throughout our 76-year history, and it’s great to take that relationship to the next level with this first-of-its-kind national partnership, with thanks to NHS Charities Together and all those who have donated or raised funds.”

Making a lasting impact

One example of where previous rounds of funding are having a lasting impact on staff wellbeing is expanding and renovating the faith facilities at Royal Bolton Hospital in recognition of the role spiritual wellbeing plays in staff experience and satisfaction.

Revd. Neville Markham, Head Chaplain at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The original prayer rooms were no longer adequately serving the needs of hospital staff and patients, so the new facilities have been transformational. Everyone is just so pleased to have the space they always wanted. Colleagues consistently tell us the quality of the faith facilities conveys a powerful message about how the Trust values and cares for them, and that positivity ripples back into the care and services they provide to patients, families and communities.”

Tahira Hussain, Volunteer Chaplain at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, added: “We live in a fast-paced world. The things you see and experience through the day can take their toll, so having this space gives people chance to take some time out. Visiting for the first time, I actually felt special. The fact that someone had made the effort to provide a facility for me to reflect, to prayer, to connect, makes a massive difference.”

Another example is the Oasis Health and Wellbeing Centre and Garden in Berkshire – a central, vital wellbeing hub for NHS staff. Jointly funded by the Royal Berks Charity and the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, and supported by a grant from NHS Charities Together, it offers a range of activities and services aimed at promoting staff health and wellbeing.

Don Fairley, Chief People Officer at Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The Oasis Health and Wellbeing Centre and Garden includes a free gym, wellbeing classes and a vibrant green space where staff can relax and unwind. The centre is also used for events to reward and recognise staff and promote inclusivity, recently commemorating International Day of the Midwife and hosting our cultural diversity celebration event.

“The Oasis campus also provides staff health checks and counselling services, which can be a lifeline. One member of staff was able to access invaluable help and understanding and face to face counselling which prevented them from self-harming and potentially going on to take their own life. We’ve seen a 40 per cent increase in positive responses to staff surveys regarding our support for health and wellbeing since the campus opened, with RBFT now proudly one of the top-performing acute NHS Trusts in this area. With over 3,400 staff accessing the centre and garden over 36,000 times in 2023 alone, its role in boosting staff wellbeing, and consequently enhancing patient care, is clear.”