6 NEWS BY VALERIA FIORE AND HIBA MAHAMADI Wellbeing of NHS staff requires leadership at board level, says HEE E very NHS organisation should create a board-level role to promote the mental health and wellbeing of their staff, Health Education England (HEE) has said. HEE envisages the introduction of one workforce wellbeing guardian per NHS organisation – a role that could be taken by an existing executive director. This was one of the first recommendations HEE presented as part of a report published in February – NHS Staff and Learners’ Mental Wellbeing Commission – commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) last year. The DHSC will consider HEE’s recommendations as part of its forthcoming workforce implementation plan. The workforce wellbeing guardian will be responsible for ensuring the mental wellbeing of staff and will feed information to the board to help it monitor performance in this area. Each organisation will set out how their guardian should work, but it should be in line with ‘a common NHS framework, allowing for local best practice in supporting learner and staff mental wellbeing’, the report stated. HEE chief executive Professor Ian Cumming said: ‘It is vital that staff feel they are supported, and that employers have the right procedures in place to offer all the help that may be needed.’ The report also called for ‘post-incident support’, including peer support, to be made available to NHS frontline staff. It encouraged service managers to develop protocols that outline the best course of action when staff face situations that ‘disproportionately impact their wellbeing’. HEE also said a national Samaritans- style service should be introduced to offer NHS staff round-the-clock access to ‘a complete emotional support service’. Think-tank warns staff shortages could undermine long-term plan T he NHS’s aim to keep people out of hospital by investing at community level could remain an ‘unrealised aspiration’ because of workforce shortages, a leading think-tank has warned. A report by the Health Foundation, published in February, found that there is an ‘ongoing deterioration’ in the number of staff employed in primary and community care, nursing and mental health. The Health Foundation is challenging the NHS’s ability to prioritise primary and community care – which will receive £4.5bn per year by 2023/24 as part of the long-term plan – without proper alignment between staffing and funding. Health Foundation director of research and economics Anita Charlesworth said: ‘Providing more care outside of hospitals is central to the NHS’s long-term plan, but the health service faces an uphill struggle. ‘If it can’t recruit and retain more Staff shortages could threaten long-term plan objectives Healthcare Leader 2019 Issue 10 Wellbeing guardians have been proposed healthcare professionals in primary, mental health and community care, this will continue to be an unrealised aspiration.’ However, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said the Health Foundation’s findings are ‘misleading’ as they haven’t referred to the most recent figures. The spokesperson said: ‘Latest statistics from October 2018 actually show record numbers of dedicated NHS staff – including 2,564 more health visitors, 473 more mental health nurses and 233 more psychiatrists – working tirelessly to make sure patients get excellent, safe care compared with the same time last year.’ However, there are still more than 41,000 nursing vacancies in the NHS, which could grow to over 50,000 post-Brexit, as the Cavendish Coalition warned in a report in November last year. The report flagged concerns that, despite the need to hire from abroad, recruitment from the EU has fallen considerably. ‘Uncertainty about the status of EU nationals after Brexit, changes to immigration policies, and the impact of changed language-testing requirements for international nurses have led to a reduction in the inflow of health professionals from the EU,’ it stated. Ms Charlesworth added that international recruitment ‘is being constrained by migration policies and the uncertainties of Brexit’.