‘We want to make our organisation the best place to work.”

Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust provides NHS hospital services for approximately 900,000 people across Berkshire, Hampshire, Surrey and south Buckinghamshire. They employ 10,000 staff across three main hospital sites and a further 6 community sites.  
In a 2020 national staff survey, the workforce at Frimley Health were rated as the most motivated of any hospital in the NHS and the Care Quality Commission rated Frimley Park as 'outstanding', the first hospital to be given this grading. Wexham Park and Heatherwood Hospitals were graded 'good' in their last inspections. 

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How we are training our staff in MHFA
The Trust recognised a growing need to provide dedicated mental health support for staff, and in 2016 enrolled four of their employees onto the Mental Health First Aid training course. It was a catalyst for the great work that followed, aiming to train 1 in 10 of the adult staff population and provide a spread of mental health support throughout all departments of the Trust. 

A lot has happened in those five years and while the team recognise they have some way to go, they are getting closer to their initial vision. There are now 150 Mental Health First Aiders and 3 Instructor Members operating across departments at each hospital site, with a focus on being as inclusive as possible. Mental Health First Aid courses are offered regularly to staff, and are often oversubscribed. They have also run specific courses for managers and theatre staff, and more recently made the transition to the MHFA England online courses, which are still proving as popular as ever within the Trust.  

“We have done a really good job of opening the training up to everyone who wants to do the course, which is important to reduce stigma surrounding mental health and get our people talking comfortably about it,” explains Melanie Walker, Employee Engagement Manager. “We have also been quite strategic in ensuring that our HR Business Partners, Equality and Diversity Team, Chaplaincy Team, Security Staff and Allied Health Professions are trained.”
With greater investment the mental health offering continues to grow. Support comes from an Employee Assistance Programme, an array of useful resources on their intranet, helplines via phone and email, a health and wellbeing champion network, regular webinars, campaign days and key wellbeing information for new starters. The Trust has also recently linked with their two local mental health providers, Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Surrey and Borders NHS Trust, to collaborate on best practice.  

2020 was incredibly tough on staff at Frimley Health. They have experienced some of the highest numbers of Covid-19 patients in the country, at point recording ICUs at being more than double normal capacity, with 15 wards dedicated to Covid-19 and hundreds of staff redeployed. Never has the need for mental health support been greater. 
“As time has gone on over this period, it’s become more apparent that some staff are really struggling with their mental health,” explains Mel who also trained as an Instructor Member. 

“They want to do the very best job they can, but like many NHS and social care staff they’re challenged in so many ways. The potential for moral injury, compassion fatigue, health anxiety and burnout are huge.”  

The Trust is currently planning its recovery from this latest wave, but there are concerns about the future and a real focus on their people. “We recognise that we can’t just expect staff to go back to business as usual because they’re exhausted,” explains Mel. 

“It is so important to allow time and space for staff to reconnect with their teams and make sense of their experiences. I get calls from people who aren’t coping and that are asking for extra support. A lot of the time it’s a general wellbeing call and this is where our MHFA skills and resources will really help people.” 

It’s clear that the overall picture is one of improvement. In their October 2020 staff survey, their Health and Wellbeing data significantly improved, showing that staff were feeling more supported with their mental health and wellbeing than ever before at work. In addition, feedback from Mental Health First Aiders has been overwhelmingly positive about the help they are providing. 

What the future holds
Much is happening to continue the good work. Investment has been secured through Frimley Health Charity to train two additional Instructor Members, allowing more staff to become Mental Health First Aiders. All managers will shortly be offered the new Mental Health Knowledge for Managers course. This online offering will sit alongside their Management Essentials training, ensuring all existing and new managers in the future undertake this training. In addition, they’re working on bringing together a robust Community of Practice, providing peer support and contact in the safest way.  
‘We want to make our organisation the best place to work,” explains Mel. “And while we’ve done a huge amount to support the wellbeing and mental health of our people, we’ve still got work to do.”

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