Case Studies

Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust


Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust provides mainly acute hospital services, most of which are delivered to the 200,000 people who live in Gateshead. However a number of people from the surrounding area choose to use the Trust’s services and a range of specialist services are now provided for people from a much wider geographical area. The Trust has an income of around £170m per year and as an employer of over 3,400 staff, many of whom live locally, the Trust plays a significant role in the local economy and has the potential to impact positively upon the health status of the local population.

The Trust has had a staff Health and well-being strategy since October 2010, which aims to:

  • Create a safe and healthy environment and working conditions for staff;
  • Improve the physical and emotional well-being of staff;
  • Encourage and support employees to develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle;
  • Support people with manageable health conditions or disabilities to maintain access to or regain work;
  • Improve the quality of working life for staff; and
  • Create a healthier, more engaged workforce, thus optimising patient care.


What was achieved?

The Trust has long been a proponent of staff health at work and has an excellent track record in a number of areas relating to staff health and well-being. Under the auspices of Improving Working Lives and as part of interventions to reduce the causes of work-related stress, several sports and physical activities were initiated and were well received. These included free Salsa classes, health walks, annual 5-a-side football tournaments, a golf club and a swimathon, yoga and pilates tasters.

In October 2010, the Trust launched its Health and Well-being Strategy with the involvement and support of Staff Representatives, which aimed to bring under one strategy a number of key strands relating to staff HWB.

 Five separate work streams were identified under one strategic umbrella:

  • Caring for You – concerned with keeping staff well at work and preventing absence;
  • Safe Working – concerned with keeping staff safe in the workplace by minimising risk;
  • Mindful Employer – concerned with supporting staff with mental health issues;
  • Health promotion – concerned with encouraging staff to lead a healthy lifestyle by, amongst other things, increasing physical activity and taking regular exercise; and
  • Improving Working Lives – concerned with supporting staff to create a good work-life balance, and to improve the quality of their working lives.

This holistic approach to staff health and well-being has enabled the Trust to focus on a proactive approach, to prevent staff developing health concerns by aligning a wide range of elements to support the health and well-being of the workforce.

Implementation of the strategy was accompanied by a robust communications and engagement plan and involved using an innovative branding of an orange umbrella to help staff to associate the various events and activities with the new strategy.

Increasing regular physical activity amongst staff as part of a healthy lifestyle is viewed as one of the key outcomes of our strategy, which cuts across a number of our strategy work streams.  A suite of branding templates was used to raise staff awareness of the aims of the strategy via screensavers, flyers, posters, display stands, pens etc. and to engage them in a range of activities to promote healthy lifestyles and remain well and motivated to work for the benefit of the patient.

In January 2011, the Trust achieved the Investors in People Health and Well-being Good Practice Award – the first hospital trust in the region to do so!

The IWL Group and Health Promotion Group have been most heavily involved in the promoting physical activity in the workplace and beyond, and in improving physical health overall.    The NHS Sport and Physical Activity challenge gave the organisation additional impetus to demonstrate its commitment to this strand of the strategy and to share good practice with other NHS organisations.

Since the HWB Strategy was implemented, around 410 staff have been engaged in physical activity, which is around 12.5% of the workforce.

The subsidised physical activities that have been offered are:

  • Zumba classes, twice per week
  • Regular Health Walks                                       
  • Weekly Salsa classes
  • Weekly netball sessions
  • Weekly “Return to Cycling” programme
  • Weekly Tai Chi classes

In addition to this, the Trust subsidises membership of the local authority leisure facilities GO! scheme, which gives unlimited access to gym facilities, swimming, fitness classes, and sauna facilities for a reduced price to the individual.  There are currently around 300 registered users of this scheme.

There has also been promotion around:

  • Staff using stairs instead of lifts – local school children have been invited to design posters to use in stairwells!
  • Walk to Work Week – the organisation has taken part in the last 3 annual events, and will take part again in 2013
  • W82go and 7 Steps to Healthy Eating, our weight management service for staff, which also promote physical exercise
  • Physical exercise as part of Adult Learners week annually, and IWL Admin and Clerical Promotion Days, where Zumba and Salsa dancing have been offered as a free taster for staff

All activities are available to all staff, regardless of job band, part-time, full-time, gender, age or ability.  Many promotions and activities are scheduled during the working day as well as during lunch times, early morning to catch people before and after work (Breakfast Tai Chi) or early evening, which is as a result of canvassing staff at events about their preferred times to exercise.   Our Chief Executive made a personal commitment to the games and actively encouraged managers to allow staff time out to attend wherever possible.  We make every effort to ensure that all staff have access to information regarding each activity, a number of methods of advertising are used:

  • weekly Chief Executive Bulletin;
  • departmental HWB Champions throughout the Trust;
  • HWB notice boards with posters, flyers and promotions;
  • bi-monthly staff newsletter;
  •  monthly updates at Heads of Service and HR Committee meetings for dissemination to wider teams;
  • updates at regular Joint Consultative Committee (JCC)  meetings for dissemination to members;
  • HWB website on the staff intranet, screensavers and pop-ups;
  • information stands and HWB Leads in the staff dining areas.

The programme of activities has been developed to ensure access to staff with a range of abilities and can be adapted to meet the needs of the individuals e.g. Tai Chi can be done sitting down; health walks are risk assessed and health needs taken into account; exercise advice at W82go is tailored to the individual.

Using the 2012 London Games as a launch pad, the Trust organised our own Gateshead mini Olympics – Ahead of the Games.  A successful bid was made to NHS North East for funding to finance a range of activities, including:

  • 20k cycle ride (for staff, friends and family)
  • 2 hour Zumbathon
  • Guided walk to local award winning park for picnic
  • Tai Chi Breakfast

In preparation for the games in May 2012, staff embarked on a series of “bootcamps” including: a 6 week cycling programme with charity “WATBike; 10 week Zumba and Tai-Chi classes using qualified instructors and guided health walks and a series of maps and directions posted on the HWB website so that staff can “take themselves for a walk” when they are able.

Participation in these events, (which was free of charge for all members of staff who took part), allowed staff to have a taste of what the Trust offers, and as a result uptake in the current physical activity programme has increased. 

In summary the HWB Strategy has allowed us to have a more focussed organisation-wide approach to improving staff well-being.  The Health Promotion and IWL Groups have in particular been able to concentrate on the key areas of increasing physical exercise amongst staff and to encourage those who do not regularly exercise to engage in affordable, fun ways of keeping fit. 

Our strategy and integrated action plan enables us to evaluate systematically the progress of each strand and to measure the improvements at individual and organisational levels.

Longer-term impact of the strategy is measured and monitored in a number of ways and ongoing improvement is sought.   The following measures are being used:

  • NHS annual Staff survey;
  • Reduction in overall sickness absence rates;
  • Reduction in number of days off sick due to musculo-skeletal problems;
  • Reduction in number of days off sick due to stress, anxiety or depression;
  • Reduction in staff turnover;
  • Reduced spend on bank/agency/locum;
  • Trust-wide stress risk assessment;
  • Local stress risk assessments;

Progress against action plans is monitored and reviewed by the HWB Steering Group with regular reporting to the HR Committee and JCC. All activities are subsidised from the HWB budget, so that staff are able to access them at a much reduced cost. 

The Trust has attempted to incentivise staff to participate in activities. Some activities are free (e.g. health walks).  Our intention is that the Trust heavily subsidises activities in the first instance to incentivise staff to participate.  Once classes have established and staff are willing to pay a little more (but still half the price of a normal class), they are willing to carry on and the funding can then be used to initiate a new activity with a greater level of subsidy.

In preparation for the mini-Olympics, orange recruitment packs were distributed to each HWB Champion on departments. A prize was given to the Champion who recruited the most staff to participate in the games. During the mini Olympics, all of the activities were free to staff, and everyone who took part in one of the events was entered into a draw to win a WiiFit.  All participants also received a commemorative token of the London 2012 Games and a certificate of achievement.

The Tai-Chi breakfast included a healthy start to the day, supported by the Catering Department, and orange umbrella-branded picnic boxes were supplied to staff who picnicked in Saltwell Park after their walk.  “Freebies” such as pedometers and water bottles are given out to staff taking part in some activities.

Throughout the year the HWB team has a timetable of activities and promotions. Information is provided to staff regarding the health benefits that physical activity can promote. Case studies and success stories are published in the bi-monthly staff newsletter which celebrate the achievements of individuals and groups of staff, and are also used on display stands, which raises awareness of activities amongst other staff members and the health benefits they are experiencing.


Who was involved?

Evaluations were carried out for most of the activities undertaken.  Results of these evaluations have shown that the majority of individuals who have taken part in the physical activities on offer have not only increased their physical activity, but have also experienced the following health benefits:

  • Prior to taking part in Zumba 90% of respondents did not meet the recommended minimum amount of exercise per week. 10% met the minimum amount of 5 – 8 half hour sessions of exercise per week.
  • 83% of respondents have been encouraged to take up other forms of exercise since attending Zumba.
  • 93% of respondents have felt benefits to their health since taking part in Zumba including increased energy, weight loss, less stress and social interaction.
  • Prior to taking part in netball 83% of respondents did not meet the recommended minimum amount of exercise per week. 16% met the minimum amount of 5 – 8 half hour sessions of exercise per week.
  • 75% of respondents have been encouraged to take up other forms of exercise since taking part in netball. Including jogging, aerobics, bike riding, swimming, Zumba, kickboxing, running and walking.
  • 83% of respondents have felt benefits to their health since taking part in netball including increased energy, weight loss and social interaction.

Additional comments include –

“For me Tai Chi has given me a place of calm and deep breathing and concentration which is both relaxing and hard work! It works my body and mind without being stressful to either of them.”

“Now lost four stone, Zumba has helped with the last 10lbs since it started. I was static with weight loss before so am very pleased"

“Tai-Chi sessions are particularly beneficial for those of us suffering medical conditions which prevent us from taking part in high impact exercise.  Amanda, our coach and tutor has proved to have endless patience and even in just a few weeks I find that I am overall in less pain, with improved balance and co-ordination.”

Organisationally, through the local questions in our Staff Survey 2011, we know that:

61% of respondents agree that the Trust takes seriously the health and well-being needs of staff (up from 59% in 2010)

67% feel their immediate manager is effective in supporting their health and well-being needs (up from 65% in 2010)

73% of respondents feel the Trust is a good place to work (72% in 2010)

21% feel under pressure to attend work feeling unwell (23% in 2010)

26% have felt unwell due to work-related stress in the past 12 months (top 20% of trusts)

A full update and evaluation of the Trust’s HWB Strategy was presented to the HR Committee in June 2012. Key points were as follows:


Physical activities summary evaluation

The Trust has provided a range of subsidised physical activities to staff including netball, Zumba, bike training and Tai chi. Other initiatives include the Go Gateshead scheme; subsidised gym membership for staff, regular walking events and our own mini Olympic Games – Ahead of the Games.  An overall summary evaluation demonstrates the following key themes and trends:

512 members of staff took part in physical activity in the preceding 12 months as part of the Trust’s HWB Strategy initiatives, which represents 16% of the workforce.  22% responded to our evaluations, which told us that:

  • 77% did not previously meet the recommended minimum of 5-8 half hour sessions of exercise a week;
  • 70% have as a result taken up more exercise since taking part;
  • 83% of respondents have felt benefits to their health and well-being as a result of these activities, which have included: increased energy, weight loss, less stress, sense of well-being and increase in social interaction.


“Ahead of the Games” Mini-Olympics

An on-line questionnaire was circulated to participants, via Survey Monkey.  In total 25 responses to the questionnaire were received.  93 individuals took part in the Games, giving a response rate of 27%. Key points were:

  • Prior to the mini games, 75% of respondents did not achieve at least 5 half hour sessions of moderate physical exercise per week.  Following participation in the Mini-Olympics, 76% of respondents intended to take more exercise, either through Trust activities or nearer home;
  • 96% of respondents said their mood was uplifted after they had taken part in Ahead of the Games;
  • 96% of respondents experienced benefits by taking part in Ahead of the Games:

-       64% had increased energy

-       52% were less stressed

-       76% interacted with people they normally don’t


Organisational Metrics

Key metrics provide an indication of the impact of the Trust’s Health and Well-being Strategy from its inception in December 2010 up to 31 March 2012:

  • Sickness absence reduced by 0.52%
  • Short-term absence rate reduced by 0.53%
  • Days lost (FTE) due to sickness reduced by 0.15%
  • Sickness absence direct costs reduced by £918,081
  • Bank/agency/locum spend reduced by £1,180,127

This represents a saving of just over £2,000,000 to the Trust


Could it have been done better?

The HWB team certainly learnt some lessons along the way – not least that it is important not to try to “second guess” what activities staff will want to participate in. We began by offering what we thought people would want eg surfing at the local leisure centre and found that it was not a popular choice.  We found if staff were actively engaged in deciding what the activities should be, they were much more likely to participate and encourage others.

The organisation and communication of events took the HWB Team much more time and energy than anticipated!  In future years, we will do more to engage HWB Champions in helping with the organisation and staging of events.


Next steps

The Trust’s HWB Strategy continues to updated and refreshed and a timetable of events and activities is agreed by the HWB Steering Group.  Since the summer events, a five-a-side football tournament involving approximately 60 participants took place in October 12. The team has been involved in promoting pilates and yoga taster classes with a view to beginning regular classes in the new year.  In addition to promoting physical activities, the team promotes various events to raise morale such as a “Movember” competition; a Singing Group and a Christmas Quiz. 


Contact for further information:

Name: Kerry Gowland

Job Title: OD Facilitator

Organisation: Gateshead Health NHS Foundation trust

Telephone: 0191 445 5412

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