The NHS Staff Council’s Health, Safety and Wellbeing Partnership Group (HSWPG) has developed guidance to support NHS organisations to improve their provision of staff welfare facilities.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a stark reminder of the importance of good welfare facilities for staff working in healthcare. From lockers to store clothes, facilities to change out of worn uniforms, and rooms in which to relax, they are all key elements that contribute to the wellbeing and safety of staff and the prevention and control of infections. However, in the context of the pandemic, it is also important that welfare facilities are made COVID-19 secure for example, in terms of capacity and spacing of seating.
Far from a nice to have, there are specific legal requirements on organisations to have suitable and sufficient physical welfare facilities for staff. This guidance includes the case for improving and providing welfare facilities and the legal requirements for organisations to have suitable and sufficient facilities for staff, such as the provision of drinking water, facilities to eat and drink which include the means for staff to heat their own food if non is available on-site during their shift, changing facilities, lockers, sanitary and washing facilities. These are supported by partnership principles which HSWPG would like organisations to adopt.
The guidance also provides case studies outlining how organisations have made improvements. In healthcare environments, it is essential to work in partnership with local union representatives to ensure that staff are kept safe and healthy at work. Improvements in staff health, safety and wellbeing will have a positive impact on patient safety and quality of care.
This guidance should be read in conjunction with HSWPG’s guidance on the health and safety of shift workers, which highlights the importance of rest breaks and evidence base on power naps.
HSWPG wants to see a culture where rest breaks are encouraged as essential to staff wellbeing and patient safety, and matched by the provision of suitable facilities and space. The practice of sacrificing staff changing rooms and relaxation rooms for additional office space or patient beds, it says, must not continue. Furthermore, staff welfare facilities must be "High on the list of priorities in any estate's reviews and new development/building plans."