Covid-19 has placed an unprecedented stress onto our health and social care services. Of the many challenges facing NHS trusts and care homes (as well as other healthcare providers) all over the country, the as-yet unknown length of the pandemic is one of the greatest concerns.
The impact of the high intensity demands on the mental and physical health of our healthcare workforce is a growing, yet under-focused, aspect of this global pandemic.
Clearly there have been crises before (Swine Flu, Manchester bombing, Grenfell Tower),
but the length and widespread impact of Covid-19 makes this the greatest greatest global health
emergency and its effects will be long-lasting.
NHS Trusts are managing acute departments at full capacity and converting any spare beds into ventilated ICU bays, all whilst trying to make the same crucial decisions as before. Doctors and nurses have been re-deployed into new roles and unfamiliar environments at an unprecedented pace. Understandably, personal safety fears have resulted from the contagiousness and severity of this disease, miscommunication on and the availability of PPE. These and many other factors are likely to have long-lasting effects on doctors, nurses, HCAs, porters and many other hospital workers, even beyond the pandemic itself.
Social Care is another hugely affected sector. It, too, is seeing ever-higher impacts from the pandemic and may record a similar number of deaths as in hospitals. Care home staff are also dealing with increased acute care needs, uncomfortable or insufficient PPE and the risk of transmitting the virus to their own loved ones at home as well as distressed residents who can neither receive visitors nor understand why not.
Of course, these Covid-19 pressures are a heightened concern given the stresses our health and social care sector was already under. Pre-pandemic, there were 100,000 staff shortages (approximately 10% of all staff) in the NHS, 20% of posts were vacant in nursing. These translate to more intense shifts, longer overtime and less support for the current workforce, which naturally has a negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing.
Rightly so, awareness of wellbeing in the health and social care workforce is increasing in the UK’s national priorities. NHS trusts and governing bodies have identified this as a key issue and are reacting to provide support services in innovative ways. There has been a surge of great resources made freely available to staff. From sleeping apps to hotlines offering support advice, there is an influx of great innovative digital solutions (such as Beat COVID-19) aimed at improving wellness to our health workers.
These services are great but what they don’t address is the necessity of organisations to effectively monitor their staffs’ wellness.
Monitoring is crucial to understand the factors affecting staff wellbeing, assess the impact of support services and then subsequently
plan further improvements. Wellness has historically been indirectly measured by absenteeism and staff retention, however these are clearly
not adequate to monitor real-time staff wellbeing. They can only provide, at best, an indication which comes too late – after staff have
experienced such difficulties they become ill or they have left the sector.
To understand the scale of the problem and to be able to provide the necessary support, heath organisations need to monitor the wellbeing
of their staff in real time. As digital solutions specialists, Circular Wave are very conscious of this and are developing solutions
which will enable the enhanced reporting and monitoring of wellness.
Our approachCircular Wave are very conscious of this and are in development of solutions which will enable enhanced reporting and monitoring of wellness. Our wellness monitoring solution is underpinned by three approaches:
To effectively report on wellness, we want to monitor it at a far more granular level than is commonly done. This would give visibility of monitoring stress, comfort, intensity and support for every shift in real-time, not just after a 6-month performance review. A simple digital feedback form can be used to securely capture this information from all staff which will drastically improve the granularity of data captured. This aims to identify mental and physical health issues before they exhibit and can be aggregated with operational data to understand other factors affecting staff. We will deliver this via our Staff Engagement app where it’s convenient and simple to answer like submitting a timesheet or viewing a schedule.
Whistle blowing, support requests and incident reporting all help identify and address risks before they develop into issues and negatively impact the workforce. Having accessible and transparent processes to report an uncomfortable procedure or a lack of PPE is proven to improve staff wellbeing because they feel empowered and are more like to raise an issue. This, in turn, improves their environment and minimizes an employers’ risk of a large issue developing. Many organisations have HR processes for these and we want to digitalize them and make them more accessible to increase usage and engagement.
Provide real-time reporting
In all organisations, large and small, managers need access to the appropriate information so that they can track and monitor wellbeing in their workforce. This means they can: identify issues affecting their staff wellness; understand how this might affect their services; and implement processes to improve their staff wellbeing. We provide real-time and configurable dashboards to provide insight and reporting into wellness. We also provide well-structure and documented wellness data which can be incorporated into operations or other business reporting engines.
Circular Wave are prototyping a market leading and innovative digital solution to improve the monitoring of staff wellness in health organisations. We are keen to discuss and collaborate with healthcare providers across the spectrum to continue our development. For more information and a free consultation on how we can support your organisation, please get in contact via [email protected].
James Shields - CEO