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'You get looked at like you're failing': A reflexive thematic analysis of experiences of mental health and wellbeing support for NHS staff

Publication date: 

1 Aug 2023


J Health Psychol. 2023 Aug;28(9):818-831. doi: 10.1177/13591053221140255. Epub 2023 Jan 4. PMID: 36597919; PMCID: PMC10387714.


Clarkson C, Scott HR, Hegarty S, Souliou E, Bhundia R, Gnanapragasam S, Docherty MJ, Raine R, Stevelink SA, Greenberg N, Hotopf M, Wessely S, Madan I, Rafferty AM and Lamb D.

Publication type: 



Abstract Staff in the National Health Service (NHS) are under considerable strain, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic; whilst NHS Trusts provide a variety of health and wellbeing support services, there has been little research investigating staff perceptions of these services. We interviewed 48 healthcare workers from 18 NHS Trusts in England about their experiences of workplace health and wellbeing support during the pandemic. Reflexive thematic analysis identified that perceived stigma around help-seeking, and staffing shortages due to wider socio-political contexts such as austerity, were barriers to using support services. Visible, caring leadership at all levels (CEO to line managers), peer support, easily accessible services, and clear communication about support offers were enablers. Our evidence suggests Trusts should have active strategies to improve help-seeking, such as manager training and peer support facilitated by building in time for this during working hours, but this will require long-term strategic planning to address workforce shortages.