“This Yorkshire and Humber AHSN initiative has provided invaluable support through provision of industry expertise, contacts and resources. This enabled comprehensive testing and roll-out of our highly effective staff wellbeing service, which otherwise simply would not have been possible for a higher education institution, thus benefiting both the NHS and the university. This support enables the programme to progress into a viable business proposition.”

Professor Ian Maynard, PhD, C.Psychol, F.BASES, F.AASP, AFBPS – Director of the Centre for Sport and Exercise Science and Professor of Sport

What was the problem?

Poor staff health and wellbeing is estimated to cost the UK economy around £100 billion a year. In 2009, Boorman reported the annual cost of absence per employee per year within the public healthcare sector was £1,153. With 1.3 million employees, reducing NHS staff absence by a third could save the NHS £500 million per year.

In a recent public survey, around 37% of people asked would not accept health advice from a healthcare professional who appeared to have an unhealthy lifestyle. This highlights an urgent need to support the wellbeing of NHS staff, to achieve improvement targets and allow them to become national champions in improving health.

The health and wellbeing of NHS staff is crucially important in delivering first class patient care, with workplace incentives identified as a priority of NHS England’s Five Year Forward View, with a need for the NHS to set a national example.

What we did and why

Yorkshire and Humber AHSN (YHAHSN) worked in partnership with Sheffield Hallam University and the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine to roll out a ‘Workplace Wellness’ programme to the NHS, public and private sector.

The programme provides staff health and wellbeing benefits, reducing sickness absence and associated costs and improving presentee-ism. The programme has the potential to save the NHS £500 million per year, simply by improving staff health and wellbeing within its own workforce. In the public healthcare sector alone, the average cost of absence is £1,153 per employee, per year.

Following the Five Year Forward View, NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens pledged £600 million to NHS organisations wishing to adopt health and wellbeing programmes for its staff: the Workplace Wellness programme could be part of this.

The project began following a pilot in three trusts, which showed a return on investment of between 300% and 500% (depending on whether presentee-ism calculations are included). This programme is now being rolled out at scale across the NHS, private sector (including Westfield Health) and public sector (including Wakefield Local Authority).YH 95health

Which national priorities does this work address?

  • Incentives for employers in England who provide effective NICE recommended workplace health programmes for employees
  • Ensuring the NHS sets a national example in supporting staff to stay healthy


The pilot study of 277 participants across the workplace wellness programme delivered the following results:

  • 98% agreed that the staff health and wellbeing was a valuable workplace benefit.
  • 97% rated their experience of the programme as excellent or very good.
  • 95% reported making changes to their health or lifestyle.
  • 45% were identified as having one or more risk factors of cardiovascular disease (CVD), of which 42.9% improved their health by reducing at least one risk factor within six months of starting the programme.
  • For every £1 spent on the programme, the NHS as an employer saved £3 in costs.
  • A health economics evaluation has shown that reductions in CVD risk factors are linked to improved productivity and patient outcomes, with a potential ROI for the project based on absenteeism data estimated from the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals pilot and the Boorman report at between 302% and 571%.
  • Seven NHS organisations are now delivering the programme through ‘train the practitioner’ methods.
  • Three private sector organisations, including Westfield Health are now delivering the programme, with the latter wishing to adopt it as part of their healthcare offer to members.
  • Two local authorities are delivering the programme to their workforce – including Wakefield, who are aiming to partner the delivery of the programme with police and fire services in the area.

If we can reduce absenteeism in the NHS by one third, it’s the equivalent of making around 15,000 more staff available to care for NHS patients. This will also save the NHS around £555 million a year. Talking to people who have gone through the programme and made real changes is really inspiring and has encouraged me to make similar changes myself.

Richard Stubbs, Interim Managing Director YHAHSN

Tips for implementation

The ‘train the practitioner’ model is scalable, and with NHS organisations receiving funds to improve staff and health wellbeing, costs of adoption are minimised.

Next steps and spread

A full evaluation report is being prepared, to be unveiled in September 2016, to show the progression made one year on from Simon Stevens’ 2015 Expo speech in 2015.

The ‘train the practitioner’ model is easily scaled, and we will work with NHS organisations to allow them to receive the benefits of this programme.

Wakefield Local Authority is planning on rolling out the programme to all public sector workforces, including council, police and fire services.

Find out more

Visit the Yorkshire & Humber AHSN website.

Contact for help and advice

Shaun Lockwood, Communications Manager YHAHSN
07880 388236

Programme duration: May 2013 – present day