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Work and wellbeing in the NHS: why staff health matters to patient care

Our healthcare system’s greatest asset is the people who deliver it. Without those people – those doctors, nurses, paramedics, porters, clerks, managers, assistants, therapists and many others – there would be no health service. Yet, as NHS services face unprecedented clinical demand, increasing fi nancial pressures and a patient population with complex care needs, it is often the health and wellbeing of NHS staff that suffer.

There is an inextricable link between the people who provide care and the patients that they care for. The NHS is one of the largest employers in the world:5 its 1.3 million staff in England6 and Wales care for 1 million patients every 36 hours – equivalent to 243 million patients each year.

For this system to provide safe, sustainable, patient-centred care, it is critically dependent on a healthy and engaged workforce with good mental and physical wellbeing. Yet their health is not prioritised: NHS staff had 15.7 million days off sick in England alone in 2013–14.8,9 When staff health and wellbeing are neglected, it is not only staff, their families and friends who bear the consequences, but also the patients that they care for, their colleagues, and the organisations within which they work.