Online psychological toolkit for challenging times | wellbeing insight study from Scotland's National Wellbeing Hub 

When crises happen, staff health and social services rise to the challenge. No-one knew exactly what the impact of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, would be but it was clear that everyone would be required to adopt new and different ways of working.

Below is the story behind the new National Wellbeing Hub website which is part of a network of support provided for all health and social care staff wherever they work in Scotland, and unpaid carers, that helps people look after themselves.

The Hub complements other national support initiatives such as the National Helpline, and those provided at local level by NHS boards, health and social care partnerships and local authorities.

Supporting staff under pressure

For many frontline staff, the pandemic meant taking on new roles and remits. Being in unfamiliar territory brings its own pressures, let alone the personal impacts on staff responding to the ever-increasing demands on them.

Lessons from other countries that were ahead of Scotland in dealing with COVID-19 highlighted the various potential and actual psychological, emotional and physical effects on frontline staff and carers. These were taken into account in designing Scotland's National Wellbeing Hub

Evidence shows that when the workforce is healthier and there are high levels of staff engagement, patient satisfaction rates are higher and patient experience is better. Also, a majority (>80%) of NHS staff believe that the state of their health and wellbeing affects patient care.

One online location 
We set up the National Wellbeing Hub to make sure that people working in health and social care, and unpaid carers, have the psychological toolkit they need to get through these challenging times. There are lots of wellbeing resources out there already, but people often say that they don't know where to start. So we pulled together the best of what's available, in an easy to use, accessible website.

We knew it would be essential for the Hub to feel relevant to people working across the whole spectrum of health and social care services, so we put together a team of clinicians from Scotland's two specialist trauma centres (working as part of a project named PRoMIS) and asked them to build a bespoke website. From day one, they worked closely with a wide range of national, local and professional bodies, consulting at every step of the way to make sure that the website meets people's every day needs.

Clinicians and web specialists working together
We began by recruiting a team of experienced clinicians and linked them up with a design and development agency to figure out the best design and format for the Hub. Working hand-in-hand, the clinicians and web specialists built a structure designed to be as accessible as possible, that would enable health and social care staff and unpaid carers to find help easily for their everyday difficulties.

The content of the Hub is based on the principles of Psychological First Aid, which is an approach first developed to help people in the aftermath of an emergency. Using a Psychological First Aid approach, the Hub offers advice informed by research and evidence-based practice in the fields of individual and organisational resilience. As such, it aims to help people adapt and cope with the day-to-day challenges of life during a global pandemic.

These challenges can appear in the workplace or in home life. So the resources on the Hub are aimed at individuals and managers working in a diverse range of environments, right across the health and social care sector.

For individuals
The resources aimed at individuals are grouped according to everyday needs at home and at work, and there's information available too for family, friends and colleagues. There are also large sections on normal reactions, coping and self care, full of advice and tips to make sense of how you're feeling and how to look after yourself. We've also added a special page of information to help unpaid carers find help and support.

For managers
The resources for managers are aimed at helping managers provide practical and emotional support for their staff. There's advice on good leadership and methods of sustaining strong teams, along with information on how to access coaching and management support. We've also included information for people who employ a Personal Assistant, with links to organisations who can offer specialist guidance on issues linked to self-directed support. Managers will also find a section on significant research emerging from COVID-19 and from previous pandemics, with recommendations from national and international bodies on the planning of mental health and wellbeing interventions.

There's also a 'Find Help' page where you can find information on support services in your local area. Details and links to national services are also listed there, along with support that’s available for staff working in the third sector.

Website visitors and feedback
Data from the website analytics tell us that more than 43,000 people visited the National Wellbeing Hub since its launch in May 2020. The data also indicate that people right across the health and social care sector are accessing the Hub, including staff working in care homes/care at home, acute hospital and in community and primary care settings, and in clinical, social care/social work, facilities and other support roles, or as unpaid carers.

We actively ask people to leave us comments and suggestions that will help us improve the website. Examples include:

"I like the short videos at the side of the pages. Hearing people's stories that you can relate to is really reassuring." 

"Make it more known amongst unpaid carers as at first I thought it was just for NHS/paid care staff."

The feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive, but we're very aware that the needs of the workforce are changing as the pandemic develops, so we're working hard to keep the website up-to-date and relevant.

Communication is vital. We are working with our stakeholders and their communications teams to ensure that all health and social care staff are aware of the resources on the Hub.

What's next
As the Hub has now been in existence for almost six months, we are reviewing it with a view to enhancing its functionality, building its success to date.

We are also reviewing the content so that it reflects changes in the pandemic, to improve the way we support our diverse workforce. The improvements in functionality will enable staff to find resources to suit their changing needs more easily, and will take account of other developments in the pipeline such as those for staff experiencing a range of mental health issues and in need personal/therapeutic support, and to enable them to link with these services.

We are also embarking on a series of wellbeing webinars for staff and unpaid carers on topics such as sleep, anxiety, personal resilience and psychological first aid. 

For more information,visit the Hub website or call the helpline on 0800 111 4191.