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June/July 2018 (vol. 15/1)

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Reducing stress, cutting absence

Summary:

A workplace CBT and exercise-based stress management programme delivered by an occupational health department in an NHS Trust in the North West of England was implemented in 2017. Phil Waterworth describes a pilot feasibility study of its effectiveness.

Stress has been linked to physical and mental ill health, such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, anxiety and depression1,2. Stress is also the leading cause of longterm sickness absence in the UK and mental health is estimated to cost the economy £70 billion a year3. Stress in the NHS is a significant problem, and is estimated to cause 30% of total sickness absence, costing the NHS £300–£400 million a year4. Research undertaken by Allen identified the origins of stress within the NHS as a lack of control, poor work–life balance, insufficient resources and a dearth of management support5. Cox, Randall and Griffiths also linked work-related stress within the NHS to staff shortages, high levels of patient demand, and abuse and aggression6. It has been suggested that this cocktail of increased work demands combined with low levels of support and control has resulted in the high rates of sickness absence and costs highlighted above, and is unlikely to change in the near future.

Phil Waterworth is the occupational health and wellbeing manager at North West Boroughs healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Author: Waterworth P

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Occupational Health at Work June/July 2018 (vol. 15/1) pp26-29

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