Leeds professor backs World Health Organisation’s spotlights on health worker well-being

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A psychology and health care expert at the University of Leeds says the issue of staff health and well-being forms part of her department’s research and warned that staff who are “burnt out, disengaged and unsupported” are more likely to leave the profession, or, if they stay are “less likely to deliver the kind and compassionate care that patients want and deserve.”

Rebecca Lawton is Professor in Psychology of Healthcare at the University of Leeds. Since 2009 she has held a joint post at Bradford Institute for Health Research, Bradford Teaching NHS Hospitals Foundation Trust where she leads the YQSR Group (Yorkshire Quality and Safety Research Group).

She is also director of the National Institute for Health Research Yorkshire and Humber Patient Safety Translational Research Centre.

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The University of Leeds Parkinson building.

Prof Lawton said: “I’m absolutely delighted that the World Health Organisation has chosen this year, and today, to recognise the importance of health worker safety.

“One of the four themes of work within our research centre is workforce engagement and wellbeing. This is because there’s growing recognition and evidence that staff who are engaged in their work who get meaning, and joy from their work and feel safe, and supported at work, provide safer care.

“In other words, when healthcare staff feel safe, patients are safe. Staff who are burnt out, disengaged and unsupported, are more likely to take time off sick and leave the service. If they do stay, they’re less likely to deliver the kind and compassionate care that patients want and deserve.”

She said the issue of health worker safety was not just physical but mental and never had that been more pressing than over the last few months.

Rebecca Lawton is Professor in Psychology of Healthcare at the University of Leeds.

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But, she added, patients and the public were also very aware of the extra stress that NHS staff had been under.

Prof Lawton said: “Staff wellbeing, has also been at the forefront of people’s minds. Patients and the public have recognised the tremendous strain the staff have been under, and that

their efforts are saving other’s lives. Leaders and managers at all levels been working hard to put in place new ways of supporting staff at this challenging time.

Within our research group, we’ve been trying to help teams locally by answering questions about how to build resilience in a crisis, discover what support NHS staff need, and assimilate evidence to guide their decision making. We’re very proud of the work we do, to deliver research that helps make healthcare safer.”

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