The Daily Telegraph

NHS staff at ‘wellbeing festival’ asked: what if we were salmon?

- By Laura Donnelly

THE NHS is to launch a week-long “wellbeing festival’ just as ministers eye up the health service budget for cuts.

Health chiefs are promising sessions next week on “dynamic breath work” and “emotional freedom”, with one, intriguing­ly, named “What if we were salmon?”

Officials said the festival, running from Monday, would help staff who felt they were “swimming hard against the current” and provide a “compassion­ate space” for mindfulnes­s.

The festival is being run by NHS East of England, covering the Suffolk constituen­cy of Thérèse Coffey, the new Health Secretary. Fitness sessions from Mr Motivator are on offer, along with a “boys’ club” for men who are confused by the menopause and want to talk about it “in a safe environmen­t”.

Sessions on offer for staff include “What if we were salmon?” Publicity material states: “This interactiv­e, supportive session will pose the question, what if we were salmon? Do you ever feel like you’re swimming hard against the current, longing to get to calmer waters?”

A session on mindfulnes­s promises “an open and compassion­ate space for self-enquiry and exploratio­n, through mindful practice of stillness, movement and breath”. One health source said: “It’s just outrageous, and it couldn’t come at a worse time, with a new Health Secretary and all eyes on the NHS budget. Of course staff wellbeing is important, but men-only events on the menopause, hiring Mr Motivator? It looks absolutely terrible, this is not how NHS resources should be used.”

A government source said: “This kind of errant nonsense is more proof of an NHS gone completely tonto.

“Whilst ordinary Brits are worrying about what the winter will bring, NHS managers are wasting money on this rot. The new Health Secretary must be sharpening her axe with glee to cut waste like this and focus the NHS on looking after people who need help.”

Medics yesterday ridiculed the efforts, with some wondering if the NHS plans were the stuff of parody.

It comes as waiting lists are at a record high of 6.7 million people and ambulance average waits of almost one hour for heart attack and stroke victims. Official figures last month showed almost 30,000 patients stuck in A&E for more than 12 hours, a jump of a third in one month. In her first day in post, Ms Coffey yesterday vowed to “stand up for patients,” having been tasked by the Prime Minister to put the NHS “back on a firm footing”.

NHS trusts in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight held a week-long “wellfest” in July to promote wellbeing to staff. Isle of Wight NHS trust announced the plans in its board meeting as it submitted plans to deal with a £22.5million deficit.

Trusts in Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin last year held a week-long festival, where staff could learn about “herbology” and take part in band practice, and end the day with a “book at bedtime”. It follows warnings that the NHS has spent more than £1million on hundreds of “woke” staff networks while patients face record waits.

A spokesman for the NHS in the East of England said: “This regional event was designed to offer NHS staff help with finances and cost of living as well as managing fatigue following the pandemic, so that they can better focus on delivering for patients.”

Following the outcry from doctors, the “what if we were salmon?” session has been renamed as “resilience under pressure.”

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