The role of the NHS has come into sharp focus in recent years as the UK responds to the biggest public health emergency of a generation. An already-stretched service has had to implement many changes to the way that care is delivered and the nature of this care.
The challenges facing NHS staff
NHS England employs over 1.4 million NHS workers. It has a focus on staff wellbeing but due to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the proportion of staff reporting work-related stress increased from 40.3% to 44% (NHS England).
At the time of writing (January 2022) the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is expected to lead to staff absences of up to 25% and on Friday 31st Dec 2021 there was a 69% increase in hospital admissions when compared to the previous week. (Independent – 1st Jan 2022)
In addition to staff absences there’s also currently an issue with vacancies. In October 2021 it was reported that one in 10 nursing posts are unfilled (NHS England). The UK’s exit from the EU has also compounded the problem. In five years (March 2016 – March 2021) the number of nurses from the European Economic Area joining the Midwifery Council register has fallen more than 90%, from 9,389 to 810.
Real benefits for the NHS
‘We do not have to sacrifice our friends, family or social life for our work. We look after each other and ourselves. Wellbeing is our business and our priority.’ – NHS People Promise 2021
In 2021, the NHS set out the NHS People Promise which states a clear commitment to supporting the wellbeing of staff.
NHS England says, ‘The pandemic has had a significant physical, mental and psychological impact on our people – and this will continue for some time to come. Many people are tired and in need of rest and respite, and it has never been more important for all our NHS people to take time to look after their own health and wellbeing. We must all encourage each other to seek help – and seek it at the point at which it is needed. Leaders, teams and employers are encouraged to offer their colleagues support to stay well at work, and to keep offering it consistently – across teams, organisations and sectors, in order to sustain the ability to care for patients, long term.’
Last year saw individuals and organisations from many areas giving thanks to the NHS in various ways. Whilst recognition and respect for the service are important, we believe that tangible benefits are vital for maintaining a healthy mental wellbeing in NHS staff. The research from ourselves and others points to many benefits around event participation.
Tickets for Good
Tickets for Good was established in 2019, and initially operated a virtual Ticket Bank, allowing the distribution of cost-free tickets to a wide variety of registered charities and social groups through a secure online platform. We are driven by the belief that event participation has a benefit on mental health and wellbeing. This link has been established by research we commissioned with LifePsychol which showed that event attendance led to ‘clear improvements on a standardised measure of mental health and wellbeing, indicating that both the anticipation or attending, as well as the event itself, had positive impacts on depression, anxiety and stress.’
When the pandemic took hold in 2020, we realised that we could pivot our platform as part of a long term plan to support the NHS and other frontline workers during a challenging time for the UK. This support is not limited to the pandemic, the challenges and pressures facing NHS staff will always be present. As alumni of DigitalHealth.London’s Launchpad, we have been able to exceed our target of giving 50,000 NHS users access to live events. The Launchpad’s support helped us understand, at a fundamental level, what was important to healthcare professionals, through making crucial connections and learning from those on the front lines. Having delivered more than 30,000 tickets to NHS workers since May 2021, hundreds of ticket recipients have told us how attending a live event has lifted their spirits, helped them through a hard week, and given them time to enjoy with friends and family after two years of pressure and fear. We’re now exploring new ways to support these important findings with further research, building on the results we shared in our Launchpad blog last year.
Digital innovation that’s making a difference
The success of our pivot to working directly with NHS workers has proved the value of increased access to live events, and made it possible for us to keep building our platform in line with the needs of both our platform users, and the event organisers who donate tickets. It’s become a true two-way relationship, with the events industry benefiting just as much, and always giving us new ways to develop the technology to make it viable in the long run. Likewise, we’re now planning some really exciting developments to help people access events more easily, and in a way that suits them – for example, an app, and automatic recommendations for events, are both in the works. NHS workers have become the pioneers alongside us in every development, and now more groups are set to benefit – starting with placement students and, soon, other key workers such as care workers. In this way, we’ll be able to deliver a wider range of tickets to more of the people who need them most, much more easily.
Looking to the future
Since the launch of our NHS project in 2021 we now have over 50,000 NHS workers from across the UK signed up for our platform who have saved over £1m by using over 35,000 event tickets. We have worked with 223 NHS Trusts and 200 different ticket providers. Highlights from last year included an allocation of 500 tickets for Strawberries & Creem Festival, a 500 ticket allocation from IDLES at The Eden Project and a huge Christmas campaign.
As we look forward to the new year we’re delighted to have many more partners offering a huge range of tickets on our platform and will be expanding the beneficiaries to include care workers and many more frontline workers.
NHS workers can sign up for free access to free tickets here: https://ticketsforgood.org/
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