Published: 20 December 2022 at 14:20
Research by Anglia Ruskin University into experiences of working and living in town
A new research report, by Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), has been published to understand the experiences of staff at Basildon Hospital, providing several recommendations to improve their wellbeing when working, living and traveling in the town.
The report, Staff experiences of living and working in Basildon, was commissioned by Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust, one of the largest employers in the region, as part of their Anchor Programme, with the aim of understanding more about the everyday lives of people who work at Basildon and Thurrock University Hospital, their families and their needs. Basildon is among the most deprived areas in Essex and as such faces significant challenges in health inequalities and long-term health conditions. There is also a higher-than-average rate of crime in the area.
Researchers carried out in-depth interviews with 30 members of staff – 20 for part one of the study and 10 for part two, which focused on unpaid carers.
Participants were aware of the social deprivation and associated health and wellbeing problems faced by the population. However, many also spoke of the positive aspects of the community in terms of the support they gain from the neighbourhood and the help they give to others. The report found that staff consider the hospital to be in a good location, with some green spaces available and close to local shops, services and leisure activities in Basildon.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to a stronger sense of community among hospital staff, the report says, as staff and the public supported each other. As was the case across the country, some felt more isolated during the lockdowns, however, and hospital staff in particular felt under pressure at the height of the pandemic. Some reported that exhaustion and burnout among staff during the pandemic was an ongoing problem exasperating staff shortages.
On returning from maternity leave, one nurse said: “It was scary. I’ve never felt so anxious in my life of going back to work. I found lots of people that were completely changed from the experience. I still feel like many of my colleagues haven’t recovered from it.”
The visibility of homelessness, poor pedestrian lighting and drug and alcohol abuse on the streets along with the rates of crime in the area were raised by staff, particularly women, when travelling after work in the town centre and poorly lit areas.
Staff praised the support and training opportunities they received from their managers, and the friendliness of colleagues. The Hospital provided a wellbeing hub for employees, which was valued by staff. One support worker said: “The wellbeing hub is excellent. I feel like it’s one of those spaces that I can always go to if I’ve had a rough day.”
The wellbeing hub was seen as a vital space where staff members could relax during the most pressured moments of COVID-19. Staff who were unpaid carers often managed their caring responsibilities informally with their line managers, which could become complicated when they needed to care for a relative urgently, and some were not aware of the specific documentation or policies aimed at carers. Given the informal way that carers tend to organise their responsibilities, it has been reported that they can feel a sense of stigma based on their continual need to plan their working life.
The report suggests 10 recommendations for the hospital to improve the wellbeing of their employees. These included a welcome and buddying system for all new staff; addressing concerns about safety and crime when traveling to work; and several measures to support staff with caring responsibilities including training and support for line managers in dealing with the issue.
Dr Oonagh Corrigan, Senior Research Fellow and co-lead for the study at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said:
Dr Emma Kaminskiy, Associate Professor at ARU, interviewed staff identifying as unpaid carers. Dr Kaminskiy said:
Charlotte Williams, Chief Strategy and Improvement Officer at Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust, said:
The report has been published internally to staff working at the hospital.