Health and care staff have faced an incredibly hard year and it is essential they are supported during this challenging time. To make it as simple as possible for our staff to find all the great wellbeing initiatives and resources available, we’ve produced a toolkit - bringing everything together in a single location. Here Karen James OBE, chair of the Greater Manchester Health and Care People Board, explains why it’s so important we help those who work tirelessly to care for others.

Wellbeing and our workforce

When the pandemic first began just over a year ago, there were so many unknowns. What was the scale of the crisis we were facing? How long would it last? How would we keep our health and care staff safe? One thing that soon became clear was that this was about to be the biggest test for us all.

The response of our health and care workforce in Greater Manchester over the last twelve months has been remarkable. We have seen true dedication to caring for others time and time again; a willingness to go over and above and put the needs of others before their own. They have done this at the same time as seeing colleagues fall ill, and in some cases sadly losing their lives. Our Black and Asian Minority Ethnic colleagues have been disproportionately impacted by Covid-19, and so many of our teams have put themselves at risk to do their job. We have even seen new people step forward to join our workforce at this time of need – bringing their experience from sectors such as hospitality or tourism – and often choosing to stay with us in the long term.

It has been a long slog – and a year on our people are weary. They have been tested like never before – in our hospitals and our care homes – as well as out in the community and in our vaccination programme too. We know that many colleagues have experienced increased levels of anxiety, stress, and depression, as well as the wider effects on work and family life.  The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted every member of our health and care workforce.

As chief executive for two Greater Manchester hospital trusts, and chair of the Greater Manchester Health and Care People Board, I deeply value the importance of looking after our workforce – helping them to be the best they can be – and caring for them when they need extra support.

The pandemic has depleted many of our wellbeing stores – whether we have worked on the frontline or from home. We have all balanced the challenges of supporting the Covid-19 response with our own personal challenges – whether that has been childcare responsibilities, caring for older relatives or living in isolation. The last twelve months have also exposed the disparity in access to wellbeing resource across our system – particularly within primary care, social care and in the voluntary sector where teams do not always have the same resource that we can provide within hospital trusts, local authorities and our emergency services.

It is more important than ever that as leaders, as managers and individuals we prioritise good wellbeing in everything we do. That includes physical, practical, and psychological wellbeing. And it means helping ourselves and those around us to feel well enough to continue to support the pandemic response, and where possible, taking a proactive approach to improving our wellbeing in the long term.

This week, Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership has launched the Wellbeing Toolkit for our Greater Manchester health and care workforce. The interactive online toolkit brings together all the great practice, initiatives and resources that have emerged over the last twelve months in one place, for all our people to access. I’ve had a first look at the toolkit and can already see the good practices it will help imbed – from the ‘check in and check out’ guide, to the Buddy Network, and debriefings to help colleagues unwind at the end of a shift. It also highlights some of the fantastic initiatives we have right here in Greater Manchester – such such as GM Moving, the Resilience Hub and 10 GM.

As a Greater Manchester leader, I will be ensuring that over the coming months we use this toolkit in our organisations and help promote it across our ten boroughs and our wider networks. I would encourage you to take five minutes to read the toolkit and think about not only how it can support you, but how you can spread the word to share this valuable resource with others.

Lastly, it is important to note that this wellbeing toolkit has been developed to support our sustained pandemic response – and in response to the urgent need for access to wellbeing resources. Looking forward, as lockdown measures begin to ease, and we start to think about building back better, we must make sure that wellbeing is an integral part of any conversations. This toolkit should be a building block to good wellbeing, with a preventative approach, being further embedded in our working cultures and the fabric of our organisations.

 

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