PCS Reps in Liverpool learn to “Know your numbers” to help colleagues

Seven PCS reps working at HMRC in Liverpool have recently undertaken training, funded by the TUC, to support ‘Know your Numbers’, an awareness campaign on Blood Pressure (BP) testing and preventative care.

PCS members train to Know Your Numbers
Shaun Sullivan, Lead PCS ULR at HMRC Liverpool’s Regian House, learns how to take blood pressure readings, with Jalal Alrakami from Person Shaped Support.

The reps include Union Learning Rep (ULR) lead, Shaun Sullivan and Christine Spinks, a PCS ULR and the union’s secretary in Regian House in Liverpool City Centre.

Information from Public Health Liverpool shows that 68,214 people in Liverpool have been diagnosed with high blood pressure. This accounts for 15% of Liverpool’s population but it is estimated that a more accurate figure is in the region of 25%. Public Health Liverpool suggests that there are approximately 52,645 residents unaware they are at risk, as high blood pressure, or hypertension, can be symptomless – but can be fatal if undiagnosed and untreated.

With these stark figures in mind the TUC received funding from the Liverpool CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) to train union reps and others to take blood pressure monitoring into workplaces and the wider community in the city region.

“Know your numbers 2017” in HMRC Liverpool took place between 18 – 24th September. Throughout the week Christine set up a lunchtime ‘Pressure station’ offering free blood pressure tests and basic lifestyle information to staff, members & non-members, at Regian House.

The week was a huge success and the PCS reps tested almost 100 staff colleagues, Christine has subsequently created a chart for PCS, breaking down the results of the tests into statistics by gender, age, working status and work area.

Christine said:

Regian House statistics unfortunately did not make for good reading as participating staff are above the estimated percentage of people at risk. Around 55% were above a normal reading (120/80) , and nearly 40% of staff had high readings, which is around a level of 140/90 and above. Those with high BP were all advised to take some further action, depending on the level of the reading.”

On the back of this campaign Christine has suggested to her Lead ULR in PCS that further ‘Pressure Station’ events in Regian House were run, preferably within the next in 3 to 6 months.

A week in later January 2018 was settled on and personal invites sent to those that took part before, along with an all-user email to Regian House staff. PCS reps hope that the majority of those that took part this time will return and that a marked improvement, attributed to the lifestyle and GP referral advice they gave, will be readily recognised.

Ironically whilst undertaking the training Christine was identified as having a very high BP and referred herself to the GP and is undergoing further investigations!

Last November four more PCS HMRC staff were trained by the North West TUC with PSS (Person Shaped Support), TUC’s voluntary sector partner in Liverpool. This will enable the well-being project to be rolled-out further, to the office in Bootle as well as Liverpool City Centre.

Of the HMRC staff tested in Regian House September, just over 74% of HMRC participants identified as being a union members. Reps are working with the Lead ULR now to look at organising more health orientated events for the future which could provide certain benefits and offers available to PCS members only.

These include ‘lower rate’ gym passes etc from local businesses, arranging for fruit/veg business to come to building each day and offer cheap fruit and veg and arranging a ‘health fayre’, run in a similar way to the ‘learning at work’ day market stall events.

It is hoped that non-members may see the benefits of these union negotiated offers and join up.

Shaun says:

Testing Blood Pressures is a simple but important way to make people aware of their health and take more care of it. With PCS ULRs undertaking this, we can look after our members and hopefully recruit some new ones”

Laura Robertson-Collins, the Digital Inclusion and Health Officer at North West TUC added:

The health authorities in Liverpool have recognised the important role trade union reps as well as other community ‘champions’ can play in promoting health and well-being in the workplaces of the city. The HMRC project is a good example of TU reps using their influence at work to help all their members and other staff to keep well and improve their working lives”