Lancaster University professor helping to protect wellbeing of NHS staff during coronavirus response

A professor from Lancaster University Management School is using his research to protect the wellbeing of NHS frontline staff by advising NHS leaders on national Taskforce teams.
Prof Michael West.Prof Michael West.
Prof Michael West.

Michael West is a professor in organisational psychology and has dedicated much of his academic career to working with the NHS. His research focuses on employee engagement and exploring factors that enable teams to be most effective. Now, he is applying his research and experience to help NHS leaders deal with the Covid-19 crisis.

Prof West said: "As a nation, we have never needed our health and care services more. With the extreme challenges they currently face likely to go on for months, it has never been so important to look after all those in this sector, ensure they are equipped to work effectively and avoid burnout. Research proves that this is important not only for employees' mental and physical wellbeing, but also patient outcomes.

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"Our research focusing on team working during crises shows focus should be on teamwork competencies as much as technical know-how. It is crucial that we generate a climate of compassion and support within NHS teams - we are seeing wonderful outpourings of compassion and love within our communities to get each other through these tough times, but this also needs to flow into workplaces. It is invaluable."

Prof West's crisis research also indicates the need for NHS workers to define clear objectives at the beginning of every shift or task cycle. Feedback and data on how well the team is achieving these objectives should be given wherever possible.

"In moments of crisis, there needs to be shared understanding and clearly defined roles," Professor West explains. "We need to minimise hierarchy and boundaries in order to build trust and faith within each individual team. In a critical care situation, I can't stress enough how important taking time for regular reviews is - it is proven that this results in much higher levels of productivity, patient care and staff wellbeing."

The Dean of Lancaster University Management School, Prof Angus Laing, said: “The very purpose of world-class business schools like ours is to make valued contribution to society, and it is during times like these that communities like LUMS can make real impact. Our research is there to make a difference and I am immensely proud of colleagues like Michael who are contributing to the Covid-19 response.”

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Prof West is currently serving on the NHS England/Improvement Covid-19 national task force for staff support and well-being. He is producing videos based on his research for NHS Wales and for NHS England/Improvement focused on staff support and well-being, compassionate leadership, looking after colleagues, working in crisis teams.