Staff sickness absence is financially damaging for NHS organisations, but is enough being done to keep staff well and at work? Kay Thomas, support manager for the NHS Health Check and blood pressure programmes, talks about how NHS Health Checks could help reduce staff sickness and therefore cut the costs relating to sickness absence.
Public Health England (PHE) estimates the cost of staff absence, due to poor health in the NHS, at £2.4bn a year. In a climate of limited resources, looming budget deficit predictions and increasing demand for services, it is imperative we take a forward view, whilst building capacity through partnership working.
Since 2013, PHE has supported the delivery of over four million NHS Health Checks, resulting in an estimated detection of 150,000 new cases of hypertension, 36,000 new cases of diabetes and 22,000 new cases of chronic kidney disease.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of morbidity in England and 85 per cent of the risk factors can be avoided with early detection. The NHS Health Check programme provides a chance for a brief intervention, comprising of three components; risk assessment, risk awareness and risk management.
A recent national evaluation carried out by Queen Mary University of London showed that referral rates into lifestyle services were twice as high for smokers, three-to-four times as high for people with obesity and six times higher for people with hazardous drinking, than for those not receiving a check.
There is still scope for improvement. To date, just 27.4 per cent of the eligible population has had a check, which is prompting exploration into alternative delivery models, to help more people access the service. As part of the NHS Healthy Workforce programme
, 12 pilot sites, including NHS England, are providing NHS Health Checks for staff aged 40 or over, improving access to the service, local signposting and support for staff, while testing new models of health assessments and health-related incentives.
It is essential for this pilot to operate within the existing frameworks and networks, so the work carried out can build towards the national evidence base for the programme and ensure a joined up clinical pathway for patients. Working in partnership with NHS England, trusts have been introduced to their local authority lead and a task and finish group has been set up to facilitate knowledge sharing.
We are currently working on data transfer solutions to ensure a robust and sustainable future for the NHS Health Check delivered in the workplace. The pilot programme also supports PHE’s workplace health and wellbeing offer: One You and the Workplace Wellbeing Charter. In implementing and evaluating this work, we hope to make a difference to NHS staff experience and help support their wellbeing.