Background: Frontline healthcare staff working in pandemics have been reported to experience mental health issues during the early and post-peak stages. To alleviate these problems, healthcare organisations have been providing support for their staff, including organisational, cognitive behavioural and physical and mental relaxation interventions. This paper reports the findings of a study commissioned by a Scottish NHS health board area during the initial outbreak of COVID-19. The study aimed to understand the experience of NHS staff relating to the provision of wellbeing interventions between March and August 2020.

Methods: Data were gathered from free-text comments of eight surveys completed by a wide range of staff across sites within one NHS health board in Scotland. We conducted a framework analysis of the data.

Results: Our findings show that despite the provision of relaxational and cognitive behavioural interventions to support staff wellbeing during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were barriers to access, including heavy workload, understaffing, inconvenient locations and the stigma of being judged. Organisational factors were the most frequently reported support need amongst frontline staff across sites.

Conclusion: While relaxational and cognitive behavioural interventions were well received by staff, barriers to accessing them still existed. Staff support in the context of organisational factors, such as engagement with managers was deemed as the most important for staff wellbeing. Managers play a key role in everyday organisational processes and therefore are in the right position to meet increasing frontline staff demands due to the pandemic and removing barriers to accessing wellbeing support. Healthcare managers should be aware of organisational factors that might increase job demands and protect organisational resources that can promote wellbeing for frontline staff.


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Cite as

Clarissa, C., Quinn, S. & Stenhouse, R. 2021, '‘Fix the issues at the coalface and mental wellbeing will be improved’: A framework analysis of frontline NHS staff experiences and use of health and wellbeing resources in a Scottish health board area during the COVID-19 pandemic', BMC Health Services Research, 21, article no: 1089. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-021-07103-x

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Last updated: 27 June 2022
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