Mental ill health will affect one on four people at some point in their lives, so support for campaigns such as Time To Change is vitally important

There is one statistic that stands out to me more than any other. It’s not A&E times, it’s not length of stay, it’s not waiting times. It’s more shocking: mental ill health will affect one in four people at some point in their lives. Over half of those with mental ill health say that stigma is a barrier to employment.

The cost to society of not dealing effectively with mental health in the workplace is vast, with millions of working days lost each year.

Employing over 1.3 million people, the NHS is the largest employer in the country. This puts the service in a unique and, I would argue, a privileged position. We know how important our work is to our health. Good meaningful work is good for health. Many NHS organisations are leading the way in providing best practice, encouragement and supporting staff with mental ill health.

Helping workforce diversity

The NHS makes a significant contribution to combating discrimination against people with mental ill health, by providing information, developing patient-centred services and backing campaigns such as Time To Change. This will not only benefit the individuals concerned, but will also have a positive impact on the diversity of the workforce and the experience the NHS is able to offer patients.

Evidence shows that adults with mental ill health who have a job, or who are engaged in employment-focused activity, have improved health and wellbeing. Increasing the support and employment opportunities for people with mental health conditions delivers employees who often have a great empathy for the patients and communities they serve.

‘Adults with mental ill health who have a job, or who are engaged in employment-focused activity, have improved health and wellbeing’

Improved support also leads to reduced sickness absence and improved staff retention. This in turn helps to relieve pressure on NHS services and reduce costs. A win-win win.

There is always more that can be done to help patients and staff – however, I’m frequently impressed at what NHS trusts continue to deliver day in, day out. At the NHS Employers organisation we work with trusts, mental health charities and other organisations to help the NHS support staff and patients in a more positive and forward thinking way. We aim to help them to help their staff, who in turn help provide the best possible care to patients.

Pledge signed

As an organisation, we’ve signed the Time To Change pledge and we’re offering mental health awareness training to all our staff, creating a dedicated mental health section within our intranet, training staff to be mental health first aiders and revising our policies and procedures to support staff with mental health problems.

I’m delighted that we’ve had the opportunity to contribute to HSJ’s mental health supplement and I hope that you will find the case studies useful and eye opening in a way that will spur you on to action. Why not top it off by signing up to Time To Change?

Dean Royles is chief executive of NHS Employers

Why it’s time to help the helpers