A healthy workforce is a happy workforce: looking after staff with the #StayingWellService

Today the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWAFT) launches its #StayingWellService Campaign, an initiative that will provide further support to ensure the physical and mental wellbeing of its staff.

It was announced that the new service will be provided in addition to the various support mechanisms already available to staff, such as debriefings following challenging incidents. Additionally, staff will be able to use the service for problems and issues stemming from their personal life, as well as situations occurring at work which are adversely affecting them.

Some of the more common mental and physical issues encountered by ambulance staff include: stress, anxiety, financial concerns, drug or alcohol problems, physical injuries and domestic violence.

Paramedics, by the very nature of the work they do, are often exposed to traumatic and disturbing events, and so mental health problems arising from stress are commonplace. Increased demand for 999 services has also contributed to the mental wellbeing of paramedics, as staff are forced to go from one job to the next with little time to reflect and recover. Both the number of paramedics on stress-related leave and the amount of time taken have increased dramatically in the last 3 years. According to The Guardian, paramedics in England took a total of 41,243 days off in 2014 as a result of stress-related illnesses.

SWASFT report that in the few hours since its launch, staff have already been accessing the service. It is arguable, therefore, that initiatives such as this should be rolled out UK-wide, as it is questionable whether enough is being done to to support the current ambulance workforce. Anxiety, stress and depression often top the list of reasons for staff-related absence. By focusing on the existing workforce, it can go some way to alleviate pressures facing the service. Ensuring staff are fit to work is essential, so additional services such as this are sorely needed.

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