Case study

Empowering staff to make informed wellbeing choices

Hospital trust establishes a health and wellbeing team to provide a wide variety of programmes to help employees lead a healthier lifestyle.


Barking, Havering and Redbridge Hospitals Trust established a health and wellbeing team (H&WB) that provided a wide variety of staff programmes covering physical activity, healthy food options, staff health checks, weight management and smoking cessation.


Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust has 2 main sites and various outreach clinics serving a population of 750,000. The trust has approximately 6,500 staff with a sickness rate of 3.95% and a turnover rate of 14.46%.

The occupational health and wellbeing service (OHWB) realised that creating the right environment can empower and support people to make informed, balanced choices for a healthy lifestyle.

What was involved?

The OHWB created a motto, ‘Keep well, live well, work well’, to help raise their profile across the trust, and gained support from both the chief executive officer (CEO) and executive team by submitting a robust business case to the board and regularly reporting updates about the impact of their work.

They established a dedicated H&WB team to provide a wide variety of programmes, consisting of a full time wellbeing adviser and an H&WB manager who specialised in communications.

The team established a close working relationship with its local food providers to support its wellbeing strategies and encourage healthy eating across the trust. The restaurant has been completely overhauled.

The trust then developed a number of pledges as part of their strategy to help staff lead a healthier lifestyle:

Physical activity

The trust created a weekly timetable with activities for staff to participate in, both on and off site. This offered various health initiatives from Monday to Friday such as netball, Pilates, aerobics, yoga, full body workout and legs, bums and tums classes. In addition, staff were encouraged to take to the ‘Healthy Hike’, a walk around both sites with signposts listing steps walked, calories burned on both foot or bike.

They also have an on-site, static table tennis table with equipment for staff to use and a ‘green gym’ where staff can use outdoor gym equipment at lunch and break times.

In 2018, in conjunction with the Sustainability team, the trust launched the ‘Go by Bike’ staff pool bike scheme. Staff can practise and gain confidence to cycle to work, use a bike for work purposes between sites or try an electric bike which they may consider purchasing.

The team also runs motivational programmes throughout the year such as ‘Walk to Work’, ‘Cycle to Work’ and ‘Workout@Work’ events. During the summer they held ‘Healthy Living Week’ which included ‘Motivational Monday’, ‘Move More, Sit Less’ and ‘Pedal Electric’, a head-to-head Scalextric race powered by pedal power. The faster you went, the faster your car went around the circuit.

Healthy food options

Working closely with local food providers, the team ensures that healthy food is available to all staff. They have developed an excellent working relationship with the local catering team who have completely transformed the on-site restaurant for more healthy choices. Options include ‘Yard Bird’ chicken restaurant, Subway, Salad Bar and traditional dishes with weekly specials. For example, Chinese and Indian, all with listed calories. The shop ‘Little Fresh’ has been completely refurbished and now offers healthier snacks.

The fruit stall outside the main entrance is now well established, offering fruit and veg at reasonable prices for staff, visitors and patients.

The OHWB team also runs a 12-week challenge for healthy eating and weight loss and have recently reintroduced a staff-only WeightWatchers meeting on-site.

Staff health checks

Health and wellbeing MOTs are carried out by occupational health (OH) nurses, who check blood pressure, height, weight, calculate BMI, diabetes and cholesterol, which gives employees an overview of their general health.

OHWB also provides a full-time physiotherapy service including a senior physiotherapist who is a registered member of ACPOHE (Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in occupational health and ergonomics), joined by two part-time physios who work across both sites.

Smoking cessation and respiratory health

In March 2015, the trust became smoke-free. No one is allowed to smoke on any of the trust sites. The smoking cessation group introduced a new smoke-free policy and, together with the communication department, yellow cards were produced for staff to hand-out to smokers asking them to smoke off-site and offering them help if they wish to stop.

What works well

The following elements contributed to the success of the health and wellbeing programme:

  • asking the CEO and executive team to support and champion initiatives
  • listening to staff and asking what they want by taking a yearly health and wellbeing survey ‘You said, we did’
  • working collaboratively across teams to provide a range of initiatives for staff
  • being creative with their communication channels and choosing the ones that had most reach
  • providing a range of activities on different days, different times and locations to suit staff


The trust’s main challenge in implementing its health and wellbeing strategy was communication. Some staff do not have access to a computer and therefore the OHWB team needed to be creative with its communication channels.

They communicated with staff by:

  • keeping noticeboards up-to-date with current, relevant information
  • distributing quarterly newsletters through the health and wellbeing champion network
  • dropping newsletters at the post room
  • hosting pop-up events on both sites
  • presenting at health and wellbeing steering group
  • visiting wards and departments

Attendance at activities started with low numbers. However, as peers shared their positive experience of taking part, attendance increased. All classes are paid for by staff but at a reduced rate, having found that if staff have to pay they are much more likely to attend regularly than if the class is offered free.

The OHWB team constantly reviews the activities available to ensure that they are living up to expectations. For example, being available on different days and times to suit staff.

The OHWB team is always looking for new ideas and proposals and any schemes suggested will always be considered.

Next steps

Future schemes include more mental health awareness events, ‘Menopause and Me’ workshops and women’s and men’s health clinics.

Further information

For more information please contact Elizabeth.Platt, Lisa.Glavin or William.Taylor.

Published 31 January 2019