Birmingham Children’s Hospital

CiC has worked with Birmingham Children's Hospital since 2014 providing the Staff Support Service to employees at the organisation. As part of the collaborative relationship between the two organisations, Birmingham Children's Hospital contact Sarah Brown provided CiC with her opinions on how CiC drastically improved the service levels in this field at the hospital.

Birmingham Children’s Hospital is one of the UK’s leading providers of paediatric care, treating and supporting 90,000 children, young people and their families each year.

The hospital has a global reputation for excellence in many life-changing specialist services, including the treatment of the most complex heart conditions, chronic liver and kidney disease, cancer, serious burns, epilepsy, neurology and cystic fibrosis. It is home to Europe’s largest singlesite intensive care unit for children, a major trauma centre and groundbreaking mental health services.

The facilities and technical expertise at the hospital are world-leading but it’s the hospital’s team of 3,700 people that make them all work on behalf of the children and their families, providing the all-important human touch, care and support.

Working with psychological wellbeing specialist CiC, Birmingham Children’s Hospital has delivered a 24/7 back-up service for emotional support, adding a level of security for all employees, encouraging openness and demonstrating it cares – all of which has led to falls in reported cases of employee stress.

The Issue

Working with often seriously ill children can, understandably, take its toll on employees, many of whom deal with handling sensitive and emotionally-charged situations on a daily basis.

“It’s so important for our patients and their families that they have continuity of care from motivated, positive and resilient staff. People make a real difference to the children’s experience. They’re provided the x-factor in the treatment they receive. We do all we can in terms of education and equipment to help our staff do the best job they can,” says Sara Brown, Deputy Chief Officer for Workforce Development, at the Hospital.

“But the work is stressful and demanding emotionally, particularly when staff may be having conversations about end of life care or coping with the consequences of incidents and trauma.

“We have had an external therapy service in place for staff. But we found it just wasns’t responsive enough, and didn’t provide the flexibility needed to inspire total confidence and trust. At the same time we were looking closely at the findings from the National Staff Survey and evidence we had a rising number of people experiencing stress from work”

While employees were admitting to suffering from stress, actual sickness absence rates at the Hospital continued to be low (running at levels just above 3%, compared with 4% in the NHS nationally), suggesting that committed employees were fighting through their issues , while also potentially bottling up the stress.

The Response

Birmingham Children’s Hospital actively introduced a revamped package of improved health and wellbeing activities, training for managers, and the opportunity to learn new skills such as mindfulness. A central plank of the offering was tendering a new therapy service that offered 24/7 expert telephone support service and face-to-face therapy – won by CiC.

Sara Brown says: “CIC’s bid demonstrated their understanding of our needs and their experience. The discussions prior to implementation were helpful, the team listened to our needs and have met them without fail to date, providing flexibility and working in true partnership with us to ensure our staff are getting an excellent and responsive service.

“They support our own comms and marketing strategy, helping to ensure awareness and uptake of the service. That included the standard leaflet and intranet material for existing staff and through our induction programmes.”

Any employee can contact the telephone service for a confidential discussion with a trained counsellor. The issue is worked through in conversations, or can be ‘triaged’, with the employee referred on for face-to-face therapy.

Therapy is always provided off-site in order for people to feel confident that confidentiality is assured and they are free from immediate work pressures. The service is tailored, meaning a counsellor is matched to employee needs and located within at most 15 miles from the hospital or home. No-one waits more than a week for an appointment, and usually no more than two days.

“CIC was the most cost-effective, but that wasn’t the primary consideration. Most important was the level of responsiveness and flexibility we’ve seen from CiC – we need to be certain our employees get the right response when they need it. We have found the same attitude in our requests for updates and reporting. They have come in to deliver briefings when we have asked and have been responsive to our needs.”

CiC also provides an additional service for line managers, providing advice and guidance on how they can best identify and support their staff who are struggling with stress.

The Impact

Staff under pressure have found an important outlet for talking about and dealing with their challenges.

In the period from 1 November 2014 to the end October 2015, 11% of employees had used the CiC service at some stage. Most commonly, the conversations related to dealing with raised levels of pressure and problems with relationships (which could be at work or home). 44% of people who accessed the telephone service went on to take the opportunity available for face-to-face therapy.

In the hospital’s staff survey of 2013, 40% of employees said they had experienced work-related stress in past 12 months; in 2015, following the introduction of the therapy support and other wellbeing activities, this had fallen to 34%.

Sara Brown says: “We’re pleased to see good levels of use of the service. We encourage a culture of openness here – it’s all part of our sense of being part of a community. If there is a problem, people come forward and we tackle it constructively.

“The real benefit is knowing we can deal with anything. We have a solid menu of options so that anyone in the organisation with a difficulty has a route forward. The therapy element of this is working very well for us. It’s another demonstration of how much we care for staff, the importance of wellbeing and having a happy supportive community for delivering healthcare to children and young people.

“The next development we’re looking at is the need for more specific advice. The therapy was originally commissioned to focus on tackling work-related stress rather than provide the more general advice that an Employee Assistance Programme offers. But we now want to explore whether there are other
sources of stress we might be able to support staff to deal with, such as financial worries.”