• 1.4 million people now on the NHS waiting list for mental health treatment according to NHS Providers
  • Research from Westfield Health has found that workers are seeking (20%) additional mental health support from their employers

The pandemic continues to impact the nation’s mental health, with Westfield Health research finding that almost one in three (31%) employees took leave in 2021 due to mental health reasons.

1.4 million people are currently awaiting treatment for mental health issues1, but the NHS Long Term Plan suggests a £2.3 billion investment fund will be introduced by 2023/24 to ensure the NHS provides high quality, evidence-based mental health services to an additional two million people2.

While support is needed now, Richard Holmes, Director of Wellbeing at Westfield Health, identifies how businesses can better care for their employees when appointments aren’t available. “It’s important for organisations to consider how the waiting list for mental health support might be affecting their workers.

While they can’t replace the NHS’s vital work, there are ways they can support employees who are struggling.

“Embedding wellbeing in company culture and treating mental and physical health equally is essential. Even simple measures such as offering regular one-to-ones with managers can help employers understand the problems their people may be facing and offer or signpost them to support.”

The wellbeing provider’s research found that 20% of employees want their employer to provide additional mental health support and absence due to mental health days cost UK businesses £12.7bn3.

Richard continued, “To support workers during this time, developing a workplace mental health and wellbeing strategy is a vital practice. The pandemic has clearly taken a significant toll on the workforce and employers have the power to help.

When reviewing wellbeing strategies, consider what tailored support you can offer, where you can signpost employees to access information and create a culture where people are comfortable asking for help.”

Some of the measures employers can take to support mental health are:

  • Mental Health First Aiders to provide a confidential avenue to seek support.
  • Webinars and training to encourage conversations and raise awareness of when and where to get help.
  • Encouraging regular physical activity has been known to relieve stress, improve memory, aid sleep and boost an individual’s overall mood.
  • Suggest walking meetings to fit in physical activity while working.
  • Relieving stress through team-building activities is a good way to get workers in a different, more social environment with their colleagues.
  • Training to ensure managers hold regular one-to-ones can help them identify when someone in their team may need extra support.



1 https://www.nationalhealthexecutive.com/articles/new-analysis-shows-record-43-million-referrals-mental-health-services-2021

2 https://www.longtermplan.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/nhs-mental-health-implementation-plan-2019-20-2023-24.pdf

3 https://www.westfieldhealth.com/resources/our-changing-attitudes-to-mental-health