Supporting NHS colleagues with the Access to Work Mental Health Support Service

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As the Health and Wellbeing Lead for the Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust, Sharon Lord is responsible for the health and wellbeing of around 20,000 colleagues who work within the organisation.

Her role involves developing a strategy for health and wellbeing based on the information received from colleagues, establishing the challenges that they face and developing programmes to support their mental, financial and physical welfare.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Sharon was keen to focus more on the provision of psychological support for employees. However, the demand for these services quickly became overwhelming for their team of in-house counsellors as the financial and emotional impact of the pandemic took its toll on the mental health of staff across the organisation.

Following a recommendation from an Occupational Health colleague, Sharon contacted Maximus regarding the Access to Work Mental Health Support Service early in the pandemic.

Sharon explained: “Our relationship with Access to Work began in 2020, when our health and wellbeing offering was quite limited and out of date. Our councillors were experiencing a significantly higher demand because of the pandemic, so having the service proved invaluable.

“The sign-up process was very straightforward, and I was soon assigned an Access to Work contact, who explained the service and how it could help us.

“It’s a unique offer, providing nine months of continuous support, which includes finding coping and wellbeing strategies for colleagues and putting these strategies into action. Another really valuable part of the service is that it provides our colleagues with confidential support outside of the organisation, which is free to anyone who is struggling with their mental health. It’s easy for colleagues to register, and Maximus are flexible and responsive, which is fantastic.”

The service is delivered nationwide on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions, and offers tailored mental health support to help employees and apprentices, stay in, or return to work.

Since signing up to Access to Work, the value of this additional support has become clear:

“The service doesn’t just help our colleagues on the road to recovery, but actually helps them to recover, and I’m aware that a number of our colleagues experiencing stress, anxiety and depression have benefited through Access to Work’s one-to-one support and workplace adjustments.

“I would recommend the Access to Work Mental Health Support Service to any other organisation. Through the Covid period and beyond Maximus has been a truly professional, supportive provider to work with – who now feel like an extension of the organisation.”

Chris Kingsbury, National Partnerships Manager for Access to Work, said:

“Factors such as stress, burnout and fatigue are impacting many workers within the NHS. However, NHS Trusts, such as those within the Northern Care Alliance, have been extremely proactive in incorporating the Access to Work Mental Health Support Service for their staff.

“Our work-focused support has enabled staff to access our range of workplace support, including wellness recovery action plans and expert guidance on workplace adjustments. All of which help to ensure an individual is present, productive, feeling well and able to sustain employment.”

To find out more about how the Access to Work Mental Health Support Service could support mental wellbeing in your workplace, click here.

16 January, 2023