Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust will lead the way in improving the health and wellbeing of health service staff in England in a new £5million initiative.

The Care Trust was announced yesterday by NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens as one of ten health organisations across the country to deliver workplace initiatives aimed at supporting staff to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Staff employed by the community and mental health provider can already access a wide range of health and wellbeing services at work, including exercise classes, physiotherapy, stop smoking support and confidential counselling for themselves and their family.

The Trust, which was named in the top 120 best places to work in health care earlier this year, also encourages staff to get involved with national physical and mental health programmes such as cycle to work and time to talk days.

Sandra Knight, Director of Human Resources and Organisation Development at the Trust said: “Our staff are extremely dedicated in their role of providing the best care possible to the people of Bradford, Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven. It is essential that we extend the same level of care to staff, with the aim that they are supported to stay well and in work.

“We have seen a reduction in anxiety related sickness over the past 5 years since introducing our workplace initiatives. The invitation from NHS England to lead in this area is recognition that what we are doing is working and we can also enhance the support we offer to staff.”

Estimates from Public Health England put the cost to the NHS of staff absence due to poor health at £2.4bn a year – accounting for around £1 in every £40 of the total budget. This figure is before the cost of agency staff to fill in gaps, as well as the cost of treatment, is taken into account.

Simon Stevens said: “NHS staff have some of the most critical but demanding jobs in the country. When it comes to supporting the health of our own workforce, frankly the NHS needs to put its own house in order.”

The national initiative also includes a new occupational health service for GPs suffering from burnout and stress and challenging catering contractors to raise the standards of food and nutrition offered to staff and patients.