NHS staff offered Zumba to keep well

NHS staff will be offered exercise classes in a bid to keep them fit and in work, NHS England’s chief executive is set to announce.

Simon Stevens will outline his £5m solution for cutting the NHS bill for staff sickness, which currently stands at £2.4bn a year.

He will say hospitals can help staff stay well by serving healthy food and running Zumba and yoga classes.

He will add that GPs should be offered specialist support to avoid burnout.

Creating healthy and supportive workplaces is no longer a “nice to have, it’s a must do”, he will tell the NHS Innovation Expo conference in Manchester.

Organisations will be asked to provide staff access to physiotherapy, smoking cessation and weight management services, as well as sports or exercise classes.

And they should offer health checks for mental health and musculoskeletal problems – the two biggest causes of sickness absence across the NHS.

‘Demanding jobs’

Mr Stevens will say: “NHS staff have some of the most critical but demanding jobs in the country.

“When it comes to supporting the health of our own workforce, frankly the NHS needs to put its own house in order.”

The money saved on reducing staff sickness can be spent on services for the public and the healthier habits picked up by public-sector employees can be passed on to the people they serve, says Public Health England.

Christina McAnea, from Unison, said: “The health and wellbeing of NHS staff at work has a direct impact on patients, and this initiative rightly starts recognising that.

“Addressing physical and mental health issues is important and a step in the right direction as it will help tackle some of the major causes of stress at work.

“NHS staff experience some of the highest levels of stress and violence in the country, and this can no longer be tolerated.

“Health unions will be working with employers and NHS England on these issues.”

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