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An app a day to keep the doctor OK

Researchers led by a team at the University of Aberdeen have produced an app for NHS frontline workers to help them have a ‘good day’ at work.

Given the increased pressure on frontline workers due to Covid-19, the app has been designed to improve work satisfaction, mental health and resilience in medical personnel who may be struggling to cope with difficult working conditions.

The ‘How was your day?’ app is being launched in Scotland today (Wednesday 2 December) in collaboration with Trickle Data Insights, and forms one of five evidence-based interventions developed in conjunction with the five Scottish medical schools and NHS Education for Scotland.

Initially, the app will be available to all trainee doctors in NHS Lothian and all healthcare workers in the Acute Medicine Unit in NHS Tayside, with a view to rolling it out to more frontline staff in the future.

The app will ask users to rate how they are feeling throughout the day and collate how their mood is affected by their activity at work.  The results will be reported to the user and to the health board every week and will be used to help inform constructive changes to working practices.

Funded by Scotland’s Chief Scientist Office, Dr Kim Walker from the Centre for Healthcare Research Education and Innovation (CHERI) in the School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition at the University of Aberdeen, was awarded more than £200,000 as part of its Rapid Research in Covid-19 programme.

Dr Walker said: “I am very excited that we are launching this app development today as a direct result of our study in which we interviewed over 100 doctors in every Scottish health board, with a view to help improve their wellbeing and resilience not only now but in the future.  Ultimately, we want to ensure that doctors feel valued and supported by their organisation.

“So far, the feedback we have had challenges the assumption that doctors have undergone a transition into the ‘new normal’ of Covid-19, with many saying they still feel that their working lives are anything but normal, and the pandemic has magnified already existing challenges to doctors’ wellbeing.

“Many staff are experiencing uncertainty about the future and say they are feeling stressed and anxious especially with the upcoming reality of the second wave, normal winter pressures and dealing with the delayed presentation of other diseases.

“In order to benefit Scotland’s population, the health and wellbeing of staff who deliver medical care must be supported and this app is just one example of a number of interventions we are working on to do this.”

Dr Achyut Valluri, Training Lead for the Acute Medical Unit in NHS Tayside who will be part of the pilot added: “In developing this app, Trickle has given us the tools to attend to our staff, to listen to what’s being said, and not said, to understand what’s really important, and ask, ‘how can we help?’ We are delighted at this next development which will provide more help and support.”

The app will give real-time data on fluctuations of the wellbeing of NHS Scotland staff and will collate the key aspects that contribute to good days like feeling respected, and connected to colleagues, and bad days like not being listened to, and lack of physical activity.

Dr Simon Edgar, Director for Medical Education in NHS Lothian added: “The most joyful and engaged healthcare staff feel both physically and psychologically safe; appreciate the meaning and purpose of their work and perceive their work life to be fair and equitable.

“This fantastic enhancement to the Trickle platform will give us real time data and a direct connection to the voice of our Doctors in Training to help us create positive change together.”

Users will receive a weekly report encouraging them to focus more on the aspects that have previously resulted in them having good days, whilst also providing participating NHS Board teams with a live view of where interventions are needed most in response to evolving working practices such as the latest Covid-19 restrictions. The Board teams will then work together with frontline staff to use the information gathered to inform best working practices to improve job satisfaction and good mental health.

Nicola Cotter, Head of GMC Scotland, added the GMC’s support for the app and said: “It is fantastic to see boards taking innovative approaches to supporting staff and their wellbeing. We know from our own ‘Caring for Doctors Caring for Patients report published last year that increased staff wellbeing is linked to better patient care and increased productivity.

“The report identified three key factors to support staff wellbeing, the ABC of needs – autonomy, belonging and competence. Initiatives like this will involve staff in how best to improve workplaces and practices and continue conversations with senior leaders on how to tackle the issues that cause frustration.”

Dr Sue Robertson, deputy chair of BMA Scotland, also voiced their support for the app: “Looking after your mental health is vitally important, and particularly so when we are faced with the extra pressures of this global pandemic.

“Initiatives such as the ‘How was your day?’ app have the potential to help support the wellbeing of doctors and other frontline NHS workers. We would encourage them to download and try using it as one method of checking in regularly with their own mental health alongside prioritising other measures of self-care such as regular exercise, rest and good nutrition.”

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