HSE Workplace Health and Wellbeing Unit

Dr. Lynda Sisson
Dr. Lynda Sisson

The Health Service Executive Workplace Health and Wellbeing Unit is a division of National Human Resources. Its core responsibility is the implementation of employee safety, health and well-being governance, policies, standards and interventions for 94,575 HSE staff (82,828 FTE). Dr Lynda Sisson, National Clinical Lead HSE Workplace Health and Wellbeing Unit. Sibéal Carolan, Project Lead, WHWU and MorganLucey, National Clinical Lead, Employee Assistance Programme WHWU.

It is comprised of six functions working collaboratively, within the HSE WHWU:

  • Occupational Health Services 
  • Rehabilitation 
  • Case Management 
  • National Health and Safety Function 
  • EmployeeAssistance Programme
  • Organisational Health

Additional Supports for HCW with long term sequelae of Covid-19 infection (Long Covid) including physiotherapy, occupational therapy and referrals to specialists are currently being rolled out

Sibéal Carolan
Sibéal Carolan

Since the beginning of the Covid 19 pandemic, the HSE WHWU has mobilised, adapted and led pre-existing structures and divisions in order to safeguard the mental health and wellbeing of the HSE healthcare workers. The interventions are generalizable to many work settings .The unit has utilised the Health Service Change Guide for all projects to advance the work of the unit.

The existing infrastructures that have been essential for the response of the Irish HSE to COVID-19:

Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) The HSE recognises that employees can experience stresses and strains in their work and personal lives and may have periods where they will benefit from additional support. The HSE EAP service provides:

  • Confidential counselling
  • Consultation to managers on staff wellbeing and psychosocial issues
  • Critical Incident Stress Management (C.I.S.M.) Response -individual and other group supports for all HSE staff
  • Psychoeducational workshops on staff wellbeing issues
  • Brief practical psychosocial support for individuals

The counselling service is free and confidential and is available to all HSE workers. HSE workers can self-refer to EAP at any time -they do not require permission or approval. It supports employees with psychosocial issues (psychological and social factors that influence mental health and wellbeing). These issues may be personal or work-related, affecting job performance or home life.

National Health and Safety Function (NHSF)

The NHSF provides effective, consistent, high-quality and readily accessible resourcesthat motivate, enable and empower managers and staff to discharge their legal and moral duties with regard to Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Management. Policy, Audit, Training and Information are the four sub divisions within the function. The role of the NHSF was key to the protection of Healthcare Workers. At a practical level this included fit testing of masks for healthcare workers and risk assessments.

Additional Supports for HCW with long term sequelae of Covid-19 infection (Long Covid) including physiotherapy, occupational therapy and referrals to specialists are currently being rolled out.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, anational helpline was established by the NHSF under the governance of the WHWU to provide advice and support to Healthcare Workers from the HSE, Section 38s, Section 39s and private healthcare services. Helpline agents had direct access to professional advice and support from all the divisions of the WHWU, including EAP and the National Health and Safety Function.

Occupational Health Services

The model of care is a locally delivered service supported by a central governance unit-WHWU.

  1. Prevention – of ill health caused or exacerbated by work
  2. Timely intervention- accessible and early treatment for the main cause of sickness absence.
  3. Rehabilitation – to help staff stay at work or return to work after illness
  4. Health Assessments for work- to help manage attendance, reasonable accommodation, ill health retirement and related matters
  5. Promotion of health and well-being – using work as a means to improve health and well -being and using the workplace to promote health
  6. Teaching and training – encouraging staff and managers to support staff health and well-being

Occupational Health Service provides support to services and teams to proactively reduce healthcare worker exposure to work-related stressors which is critical to employee safety, health and wellbeing and building work environments where healthcare workers feel psychologically safe. Rehabilitation services support are in place for employees in their return to work. Rehabilitation policy and processes have been in place since 2011 and include: referral process for employees on long term absence and occupational health services with links to speciality services, such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy or psychological support through the EAP.

Additional Supports for HCWs with long term sequelae of Covid-19 infection (Long Covid) including physiotherapy, occupational therapy and referrals to specialists are currently being rolled out.

Organisational Health

This division focuses on supporting and enabling the organisation and services to implement and work towards evidence-based, best practice to support sustainable health and wellbeing improvement in workplaces, and work environments among healthcare teams. It provides direct support to Managers and their teams in preventing and managing complex psychosocial risks in the workplace and work environment.

The unit is currently operating under the W.H.O Healthy Workplace Framework which will enable workplaces and services, through the provision of evidence-based approaches, support their healthcare workers in the acute and recovery phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To summarise since the beginning of the pandemic, WHWU has provided national support and leadership to all healthcare settings both public and private. It has worked on strengthening and improving its infrastructure for the provision of mental health and wellbeing services to HSE workers. This has been achieved through the adaptation of existing services and interventions to the current context based on robust evidence, and underpinned by integrated workforce planning. Ensuring the sustainability of the adapted services and tools is a priority for the HSE WHWU.

Contact Details

  • Workplace Health and Wellbeing Unit Contact email: hr.wellbeing@hse.ie
  • EAP and me: 0818 327 327
  • National Health and Safety Function Helpline: 1850 420 420