Staff member at MTW receive a chair acupressure massage

Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust are offering a range of initiatives to support the wellbeing of staff who are experiencing rising stress and burn-out at work.

Acupuncture, art therapy, wellbeing lounges and massage chairs are just some of the initiatives being offered at one hospital trust in Kent to support the health and wellbeing of staff who have experienced rising stress since the pandemic.

Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust (MTW) is leading the way in helping staff cope with stress and the pressures of the job by recruiting a new team and introducing a range of innovative wellbeing initiatives.

The focus on the mental wellbeing of NHS staff comes amid renewed concerns about the impact of working conditions on staff mental health. Data from 67 NHS Trusts released in April under the Freedom of Information Act found that hospital staff have taken more than eight million sick days in the past five years, with more than 2.2 million sick days being taken in 2021 alone. MPs have since warned that NHS staff are close to “breaking point.”

Initiatives the MTW are offering include a specialist in-house staff psychological team offering support for staff who are struggling with work or personal problems and the opening of dedicated wellbeing lounges at the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells hospitals. These offer staff a safe space to go to relax and recharge, have a hot drink and snack, chat with the wellbeing team about issues worrying them and get self-help advice on topics including stress management and sleep hygiene.

Staff can take part in a range of free wellbeing activities including free ear acupuncture sessions, art therapy workshops, chair acupressure massage and Kettle ball classes. Around 20 MTW colleagues have trained as auricular ‘ear’ acupuncture practitioners and are offering treatments in their own time, as they recognise the value of acupuncture on their own wellbeing and want others to enjoy the benefits too.

Wellbeing partners have also been recruited to provide wellbeing support and a listening ear to teams working on the frontline. The roles were created as part of MTW’s winter wellbeing programme to make sure staff struggling with their mental or physical wellbeing could access the support they need.

Working with managers and the HR team, they signpost or refer individuals to appropriate wellbeing services, such as the Employee Assistance Programme or the Psychological Occupational Health Team. They also work alongside team leaders to embed wellbeing good practice in their work.

Speaking about the initiatives, Ainne Dolan, Deputy Chief People Officer at MTW said “at MTW, staff wellbeing has always been a priority, but in recognition of the impact of the pandemic, we have stepped up our emotional and mental support, with our new dedicated wellbeing team, wellbeing lounges and our wellbeing events programme.

“Stress awareness month is an ideal opportunity for us to help break the stigma around stress, highlight where staff can go to talk about stress and its impact, and encourage people to look after themselves. We recognise the last two years have been incredibly challenging, and we want to let our people know they are supported.”

MTW has also just launched a major recruitment campaign to attract talented healthcare professionals from London, Kent, and the surrounding counties to work in the Trust, with a focus on clinical roles.

Staff benefit from progressive flexible working policies including career breaks, flexible retirement, secondments, and family-friendly policies including carers’ leave. The Trust also rewards and recognises staff through its employee and team of the month awards and annual Staff Star awards, where patients and staff nominate colleagues that they feel have shown the commitment, professionalism, and dedication in providing the best possible care.