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Claire Edwards, academic champion in NDS says “The Athena Swan Charter has helped us to better understand our department, and establish new practices to build an inclusive working environment that is supportive for all”


Mental Health Pilot Project

Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences (NDS) noticed that men were less likely to engage with the topic of mental health and wellbeing, while women were likely to report feeling less comfortable discussing mental health and wellbeing compared with their male colleagues. Below are some of the actions they took:

  • Trained a cohort of Mental Health First Aiders and launched the ‘Wellbeing Support Service’ so that staff can access someone who is trained to listen and signpost them to support. We now run the training annually and have expanded the service to run across two departments. We aim to keep 10% of our department trained as Mental Health First Aiders
  • Devising a mental health and wellbeing policy
  • New pages on our staff intranet providing resources around mental health and wellbeing, including crisis support lines
  • Monthly ‘Wellbeing Wednesday Bulletin’, which gives information, resources and support on specific topics, such as anxiety, depression, bereavement, etc.

As a result of this concerted push 83% of staff felt their health and wellbeing was adequately supported at work, that number increases to 94% when you remove non-answers. 80% of staff are comfortable discussing concerns they may have about their health and wellbeing with their manager. This increases to 92% when removing non-answers.

NDS ranked among the highest three departments in the University for staff wellbeing in the 2021 Staff Experience Survey, and are immensely proud of the impact this focused piece of work has had across the department.

"There still a lot of stigma and fear about talking about mental health problems and severe mental illness and in the workplace either confidentially with a line manager or with colleagues. I think the project is working to create a framework so that staff with mental health problems feel safe and supported whether they choose to disclose their condition to their employer or not. There’s a lot of situations where HR or line managers introduce policies in the office environment which they are not aware have a detrimental impact on people with mental health problems and I’m really pleased that this project will help address that. I find it very difficult to stick your head above the crowd to raise these issues as an individual. I have found taking part in the project really affirming and I feel more comfortable and confident talking about my mental health in the workplace. Although focused on mental health, the mental health policy will provide a lot of benefits to other people with disabilities and health conditions (particularly hidden disabilities)."

An image of a brick wall with a painted sign saying 'How are you, really?' with a quote from John Gilbert "the project is working to create a framework so that staff with mental health problems feel safe and supported whether they choose to disclose their condition to their employer or not."

NDS Training Fund

NDS created a training fund that allows staff to apply for up to £1000 worth of funding for external training. Any member of staff can join including professional and support staff who are often overlooked in this area, and they encourage those of fixed-term contracts to use it as well, to prepare them to potentially re-entering the job market.

Since its creation, the fund has been used by 19 staff across different roles, 10 of whom are women.

Read testimonials from NDS staff who were successful in applying to the staff training fund 

HR Officer Gemma Horbatowski says of the NDS Staff training fund "I cannot thank the department enough. Not only did they pay for my qualification, they also allowed me to step out of my role one day a week"


Click here to read about EDI activity in one of our other 16 departments:

MSD Goes Silver: 10 Years of Athena Swan