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 single-site intensive care unit for children, a major trauma centre and ground-breaking 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 provide 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 counselling service in place for staff. But we found it just wasn’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 counselling service that offered 24/7 expert telephone support service and face-to-face counselling – 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 counselling.

Counselling is always provided off-site in order for people to feel confident that confidentiality is assured and they are free from immediate work pressures.