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NHS employers: healthy staff programmes need better evaluation

21 November 2014 - 9:21am

NHS Employers says financial pressures are making it hard for the health service to run health programmes for staff, unless it has more evidence to show their value.

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CSP chief executive Karen Middleton: 'It's vital that the NHS invests in the health of its own staff'

In a report, published on 21 November, the organisation for NHS bosses says each year the NHS spends a significant amount of money on promoting and protecting the health and wellbeing of its workers. However, the lack of evidence about the impact and effectiveness and value of these activities represents a major threat, it says.

‘For health and wellbeing interventions, evaluation is a crucial step to help ensure that decisions made to select, invest and continue to provide particular interventions are evidence-based,’ it says.

The report includes a detailed case study of an evaluation process for PhysioPlus, a self-referral physiotherapy service for staff at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS trust.

Before the evaluation, by Zeal Solutions, there had been only a basic assessment of PhysioPlus, mainly around performance statistics, the document says. Zeal Solutions broadened this to include shadowing physiotherapists within the service to understand their jobs, as well as interviews with managers and service users before, during and after their treatment.

Key principles for best practice in evaluation are set out in the report, with the intention of helping trusts to improve their approach to evaluation in practice.

The principles are:

  • ensure the purpose of the evaluation is determined
  • establish your evaluation criteria
  • plan, prepare and where possible document the evaluation design
  • look for change
  • consider the long-term impacts of an intervention
  • consider the bigger picture
  • engage senior management
  • build a capacity and capability for evaluation
  • focus on process as well as on the outcome
  • ensure there is effective communication and understanding of evaluation findings

CSP chief executive Karen Middleton said it was vital that the NHS invests in the health of its own staff. ‘Sickness absence among NHS workers can mean missed appointments and longer waits for patients,’ she said.

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