During the pandemic, life in the UK became very different for everyone! The Government imposing a national lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic presented lots of own challenges for the physical and mental wellbeing of individuals – in particular healthcare workers.

NewcastleOHS provides Occupational health support for over 15,000 staff working across Newcastle Hospitals, as well as doctors working across the region. During March and April 2020, the numbers of staff contacting the service with COVID-related concerns almost doubled the normal activity levels for the department. This meant that support services usually offered by the department for physiotherapy, psychology and counselling for staff were temporarily put on hold as efforts were focused on the COVID effort, including introducing urgent telephone support for emotional wellbeing.

Fast forward to May we had developed systems and familiarity with the situation meaning that COVID-related activity in the department had become more manageable. The OHS Physiotherapy and Psychology teams considered ways to increase support available for the physical and emotional wellbeing of staff working through this uncertain period, who were perhaps yet to notice or consider the toll that this stressful time had taken on all aspects of their own health.

One of the things we did was think about new ways to reach staff who might need support as we were not able to meet face-to-face. We created the OHS Streamed Pilates session which is a live session streamed over lunchtime (12:00-12:20) accessed for free over the StarLeaf platform. The aim of the session is to engage staff in physical activity during their working day. With more staff more desk based and working remotely the session emphasized the importance of taking breaks from prolonged static postures to get blood flowing and reduce stiffness. The session has engaged over 300 staff since it started in June and continues to be delivered every Monday lunchtime.

The Psychology and Counselling team followed this up with our Streamed Mindfulness session which still runs every Thursday lunchtime at 12pm via Starleaf. The session which has been very well received, aims to help us stay in the present and be aware of what is happening in our minds and in the external environment. Becoming aware of our present moment experience can be beneficial for our mental health and wellbeing.

You can join in Pilates by using this code: 468 806 1364 and Mindfulness via code: 443 299 8544 or watch back some recorded sessions on the Trust’s Youtube channel or below.

In addition, we teamed up with Better Health at Work and ActiveNewcastle who were also exploring new ways of engaging people in the Newcastle area to support wellbeing. Hosting a Twitter poll to establish staff preferences, we were able to come up with another lunchtime streamed offering which was delivered over the summer months called Workout @ Work. This session focused on low impact exercises and emphasized the importance of self-care and being reflective and mindful during your working day.

It was also important to us to reintroduce the services that staff had been able to access in the past to support the move toward reintroducing our core activity. Like most teams, this had to be done in creative ways, initially introducing remote consultations by telephone and video calling. The OHS Physiotherapy team were once more able to utilize the StarLeaf platform to offer video physiotherapy appointments.

In April 2020 OHS were supposed to launch a new provision for staff with chronic pain conditions. “Introduction to Pain” is an interactive session which is a co-delivered by the Physiotherapy and Psychology. It was supposed to be delivered in person to small groups but due to social distancing we modified the content to enable online delivery and the session was successfully launched in the summer.

Staff can self-refer to our Physiotherapy & Counselling services or can speak to their line managers to be referred for other issues impacting their work or wellbeing. If you would like to find out any more information on any of our sessions please contact: newcastle.ohs@nhs.net.

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