Hywel Dda Health Charities is funding six major projects to support the health and wellbeing of the 12,000-plus NHS staff working across the Hywel Dda University Health Board area in west Wales.
This has been possible thanks to a £242,000 grant from the NHS Charities Together COVID-19 Urgent Appeal which raised more than £130 million to help with the impact of the pandemic on NHS staff thanks to the kindness and generosity of the British public.
The projects are providing a range of opportunities and support including ecotherapy retreats, Wellbeing Champions, bereavement support and training, staff rest areas, a lifelong learning fund, and arts in health and wellbeing activities.
And more than 2,700 Hywel Dda University Health Board staff across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire have already benefited from the projects.
One ecotherapy retreat for staff has already been held, with four more planned for 2022 and five for 2023.
The retreats have been specially designed for Hywel Dda staff and are aimed at those who are experiencing high levels of stress or who are at risk of burnout. They give an opportunity to slow down and reflect and experience restoration in nature and staff taking part have already talked of healing and nature becoming an ally.
More than 130 staff have registered to become Wellbeing Champions and 65 have already completed the induction programme. The aim is to have 100 champions in place by September this year, promoting health and wellbeing in the workplace.
Local initiatives that have already been developed by the champions include lunchtime Tai Chi classes, ward-based wellbeing libraries, and programmes supporting hydration, exercise and relaxation.
Two Specialist Bereavement Staff Support Trainers have been appointed on a job-share basis to provide education for staff relating to death, dying and bereavement. They have established a bereavement support and training project, working with senior nursing teams and operational managers.
Workshops are being held for staff focusing on grief, loss and bereavement, including the effects of working through the pandemic and self-care. Participants to date have included senior nurses, staff nurses, family liaison officers, health care support workers, occupational therapists and physiotherapists. They have reported that the workshops have been of huge benefit in supporting patients and families with symptoms of grief.
The grant funding will also enable new staff rest areas to be created as well as improvements to be made to existing rest areas, following engagement with staff. These indoor and outdoor rest areas will enable staff across the health board to benefit from fresh air and relaxation time as well as more comfortable surroundings for breaks.
The Lifelong Learning Fund has also been launched, which offers staff the chance to apply for funding to learn new skills to help them recover from the experience of the pandemic.
Arts in health and wellbeing activities are also being provided for staff. The Hywel Dda Arts in Health Coordinators have piloted a programme of creative activities, including live music performances, creative writing sessions, online singing activities and arts and culture events.
Lisa Gostling, the health board’s Director of Workforce & Organisation Development, said:
“We consulted with staff to understand their experiences of working during the pandemic and, in understanding the huge impact the pandemic had on our staff’s wellbeing, we wanted to invest in programmes and initiatives that provided mechanisms for reflection and recovery.
“Some of our staff worked in extremely challenging circumstances and we have been able to invest in programmes that will all help to support the well-being of our staff at work. We are so grateful for the opportunity to provide these much-needed facilities and programmes for the staff at Hywel Dda. In supporting the wellbeing of our staff we can continue to support our patients and public to the best of our ability.”
Mandy Rayani, Director of Nursing, Quality and Patient Experience for the health board, said:
“During the pandemic, our staff have gone above and beyond and have worked to ensure that appropriate 24/7 care has been available to meet patient needs across our three counties.
“We are so proud of our staff and one of our priorities now is to support their rest, recovery and the restoration of their wellbeing. These six new projects to support staff wellbeing and recovery in the longer term have been well received by our teams and we are very grateful for the support of NHS Charities Together and the public through their donations.”