A healthy approach to levelling up

Lancashire’s pioneering Health Innovation Campus (HIC) has the opportunity to play a key role in the government’s levelling up agenda as it works to tackle the significant wellbeing challenges the county faces.

Sherry Kothari, director of the new Lancaster University campus, spelled out some of those challenges, saying: “We have some of the poorest health, social and economic outcomes in the country.”

And she added: “Whilst the levelling up agenda may be very recent, people have known for a very long time about the health and social inequalities that exist, not just in the region but across the North.”

Sherry was speaking at today’s Lancashire Business Week Breakfast Blast, focusing on wellbeing and inclusivity.

CG Professional was the headline sponsor of the event, hosted by Lancashire Business View. A series of Breakfasts Blasts are planned every morning this week looking at a range of issues of importance to the county’s business community.

The first phase of the £41m HIC opened in Lancaster earlier this year. Sherry told the online audience that its aim was to work across disciplines and sectors to tackle the challenges, adding: “Over 80 per cent of the factors that affect health and wellbeing are non-medical.”

The HIC will provide a focal point, allowing researchers, healthcare professionals, businesses, local authorities and policy-makers, to come together and work to improve health outcomes in the region.

Kate Quinn, operational director of human resources at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, spoke of the massive challenges currently facing its staff and the impact on their wellbeing as they battled with the Covid-19 pandemic.

She said: “It is really challenging right now. Everyone is really tired. We’ve been through the first wave of the pandemic where we had the nation clapping on the doorstep. That’s gone now.

“At the same time as we are seeing an increasing number of Covid patients we are trying to restore services, in terms of making sure other health conditions are treated and treated appropriately and quickly.”

Kate said the trust was working hard to ensure its staff had all the support they needed, including mental health support.

She added: “Some of our staff have had to deal with really traumatic deaths within our hospital during the last nine months. Really supporting those staff is critical.”

Attracting and retaining staff remained “a challenge”, she said. And she also highlighted how the trust was working closely with other health and social care providers and the voluntary sector to provide “seamless care”.

Wellbeing and inclusivity also came under the spotlight at the event. Kate said the trust was working to encourage conversations among its workforce “to enable people to value everybody and for people to feel they can bring their whole self to work”.

Rob Binns, managing director of Cotton Court in Preston, spoke of the impact of economic inequality and the need to address the problem.

He called on businesses to do more to give young people from less affluent parts of Lancashire the same opportunities as those from better off communities and backgrounds.

Rob said: “That starts with companies actually going into schools in challenging areas and saying we are willing to give people work experience.”

He added that businesses also needed to provide support to ensure those young people got that experience, highlighting barriers such as travel costs.

Looking at the issue of inclusivity his message to businesses was: “Try and make your workplace reflect your customers.”

Heather Aust, partner at CG Professional, said that wellbeing in the workplace was even more important now that so many people were operating from home.

Businesses had to recognise that while for some, home working was a massive advantage, for others it posed real problems.

She said: “For some people I can be a real struggle, they may not have the facilities, the environment or the actual space.”

Heather added there was a need to be mindful of people’s working hours blending into their home life when they were working remotely and it was important to draw a line between the two.

Lee Chambers, founder of Essentialise Workplace Wellbeing, told the audience that “communication” was vital as more people in organisations worked from home and remotely.

He said he was working with SMEs to ensure workers had a space where they could speak and share their concerns and he added that a feeling of belonging came from being able to participate.

Lee also said: “Management has a real responsibility to ‘check-in’ on their employees to ensure they are alright.”

He went on: “Companies with more pro-active cultures and that are more inclusive have manged to be more sustainable throughout the pandemic.”

Dave Scholes, director of Mindsight, said that having “a culture of care” was really important as ways of working and engaging had changed.

He told business leaders that it started with them looking after themselves, adding: “If you are doing okay you can start to invest in other people.”    

He said that the pandemic meant people were missing having those “water cooler moments where you grab a brew and put the world to rights in five minutes.”

Dave stressed that it was important for business leaders to “start-up conversations” with their workers and to remember everyone was different and that their journeys would also be different.

To watch this event in full, click here.

Lancashire Business Week is also backed by patrons AMRC North West, Beever and Struthers, Burnley.co.uk, Burnley College, Community Foundation for Lancashire, FW Capital, IN4.0 Group, Lancashire 2025 and PDS Engineering. Utiligroup is a supporter. The media partners are Downtown in Business, Lancaster and District Chamber of Commerce and lovelocalnetworking.

For full details and line-up, visit: https://bit.ly/LBW2020