Our NHS People

What are Health and Wellbeing Conversations?

Health and Wellbeing Conversations are supportive, coaching-style one-to-one discussions focused on building individual and team resilience. They take place between an individual staff member and someone they trust at work at a time and place that suits the participants. We anticipate that most conversations would be conducted by a line manager. In the 2019 NHS staff survey one quarter of staff were not ‘satisfied or very satisfied’ with the level of support they receive from their line manager. This suggests the NHS still has some way to go before all staff have full confidence in their manager. Given the potentially sensitive nature of Health and Wellbeing Conversations, some staff will need the option to hold the conversation with someone other than their line manager.  

Most Health and Wellbeing Conversations will be completed in an hour and can be revisited more than once a year, if situations change or as and when individuals feel the need.

They have three purposes:

  • To enable all NHS and care staff, irrespective of grade, role or professional background, to have a confidential discussion about their wellbeing and how it might be impacted by:
    • the COVID-19 pandemic
    • intensity of their workload
    • the demands of specific environments e.g. the rate of exposure to distressing or traumatic events
    • other influencing factors outside of the workplace e.g. caring responsibilities, major life events, family/community health etc.
  • To identify what factors individuals and teams are able to promote and nurture for their own recovery and to support them to increase their capacity to cope. The aim is to build a strategy to manage the impact of COVID-19 and to take appropriate action to reduce the negative effects of stressful working environments moving forward
  • To highlight where someone may benefit from further help, including mental health support, and enlist that help promptly

The outputs of the conversation are expected to be:

  • Areas of the individual’s health and wellbeing that could be improved taking a prevention and self-management approach – this could include support from line managers for workplace adjustments or flexible working arrangements
  • Where to go for additional, targeted support when needed
  • Factors beyond the individual or team level which are impacting on health and wellbeing and require action at an organisational level to change

It is important Health and Wellbeing Conversations are only used with the purposes above in mind.

Health and Wellbeing Conversations are not:

x Psychological interventions – they are not designed to be counselling or therapy sessions. In fact, it’s important that mental health professionals are not brought in to carry out psychological debriefing or trauma counselling to staff who are going about their job and experiencing perfectly normal reactions to it. However, individuals who do have significant levels of psychological distress should be offered prompt referral to services able to provide specialist psychological care

x Intended to be used to judge the performance of an individual or as a trigger point for a disciplinary process. It is important conversations take place in an atmosphere of psychological safety and associations are not made between wellbeing and opportunities for progression, development or reward

x Intended to be documented, however, organisations will need to consider how to capture data, such as number of sessions held and emerging organisational change themes, in a way that reflects the confidential and sensitive nature of the discussion

x A Risk or Mental Health Assessment: Health and Wellbeing Conversations are for all people, not just at-risk groups. However, it would be important to prioritise those identified at higher risk for their Health and Wellbeing Conversation earlier in the implementation process