‘A hug in an app’: providing staff with a 24/7 wellbeing solution

March 2019

Our NHS is the heart of the nation. In recent times, it has been put under greater strain due to financial and workforce pressures, along with the increasing demand of an ageing population. This kind of pressure has ultimately led to many parts of the NHS becoming incredibly stressful environments to work in, with 30 per cent of sickness absences due to stress.

In light of this, the Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust have recently taken an incredibly innovative and disruptive step to promote wellbeing throughout their organisation.

Who are the Walton Centre Trust?

With 1450 staff, the specialist hospital trust delivers comprehensive neurology, neurosurgery, spinal and pain management services across Merseyside, Cheshire, Lancashire, Greater Manchester, the Isle of Man and North Wales.

At the core of their success is the investment in their staff. Their commitment to ‘the Walton Way’ ensures all employee engagement is underpinned by their values of pride, dignity, respect, openness and caring – so it is no surprise they are the first in the NHS to pilot an app dedicated to improving daily wellbeing and resilience during work.

Although the Trust already have an extensive health and wellbeing programme in place, it is not readily available to everybody, particularly clinical staff, at the moments they need it most.  The Walton Centre therefore wanted a resource that would be available to all staff, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Here we introduce the ShinyMind app.

‘Created with the user at the heart’

Over the last several months, the Walton Centre have worked in partnership with Shiny Mind and Cynergy to help co-produce the ShinyMind mobile app, to reach and support staff whenever and however they need it.

Co-production was at the core of app design and creation: it was integral to achieving a wellbeing tool that staff will believe in and can benefit from, both professionally and in their personal lives.

Staff of all levels and from a variety of roles were selected to take part in an initial co-design session to openly discuss their ideas on how they envisioned the app. As a result, we were better able to understand the true needs of staff, what they wanted from the app and how they wanted to use it.

From this, the first prototype was created and sent to the group of testers to play about with and discover for themselves what they thought worked, what didn’t, and what could be improved. The feedback was invaluable and as a result brought about features that would never have been conceived without the input from the Walton Centre staff. For example, the ‘SOS’ button was introduced as a way for users to quickly access features such as ‘Mood baths’ (relaxing sounds and backgrounds), breathing exercises and mini mindfulness activities to relieve stress in moments of sudden anxiety and strain during work.

The app also encourages users to complete their ‘Daily Shine’ which, for example, asks them to reflect on how they feel at that moment, what’s been going on in their lives, to consider what they are grateful for, and to pass on a ‘Positivity post’ to colleagues. Users can also complete ‘Masterclasses’ on Resilience, Mindset, Stress, Relationships, Self-compassion, Breathing and Mediation (to name a few!).

What's more, users can personalise their in-app profiles by:

  • adding colleagues to their ‘Friends’ list
  • creating ‘Memories’ albums with photos and playlists via Spotify and YouTube
  • review journal entries from previous Daily Shines and Masterclass
  • add to their ‘Gratitude Board’, ‘Resilience Board’ and ‘Coping Well’
  • create their ‘Life Compass’
  • understanding their own personal ‘Triggers’ and how to deal with them

These features create a hub in which staff at the Walton Centre can reflect on what and who they are grateful for, who they look to for support and advice, what’s important to them and why they do what they do - ultimately putting their problems and concerns into perspective.

The app aimed to create a ‘community spirit’, a space whereby staff can take time out to reflect on their thoughts, feelings and gratitude toward others. Staff within the pilot group described it as ‘A hug in an app’, and really appreciated the opportunity to be involved in its creation and development, acknowledging that all their thoughts and feedback were taken on board.

The collaboration between the Walton Centre Trust, their staff, Shiny Mind and Cynergy has brought about an innovative solution to the pressures facing the NHS workforce, and hopefully our work so far can help other Trusts looking for new ways to support the wellbeing of their hardworking staff.