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NHS expands mental health support for staff after toughest year in health service history
The NHS is supporting staff who have pushed their minds and bodies to the limit over the last year to look after their mental health, as 40 dedicated support hubs are set to open across the country.
As part of the health service response to this pressure, staff will be offered access to evidence-based mental health services at one of 40 hubs.
Staff can access services over the phone with onward referral to online and one-to-one expert help from qualified mental health clinicians, therapists, recovery workers and psychologists.
The hubs are free of charge and offer confidential advice and support to NHS staff who for the last year have cared for millions of people with coronavirus while keeping vital services like maternity, mental health and cancer care going.
NHS staff will be encouraged to reach out directly for help, but hubs will proactively contact staff groups who are most at-risk to offer them support so they get the care they need as quickly as possible.
The NHS’ National Mental Health Director, Claire Murdoch, said: “NHS staff are used to dealing with the extremes of life on a daily basis, but this year has been exceptional, and in what is likely to be the toughest year in their career, staff have put their minds and bodies to the limit treating hundreds of thousands of seriously ill-patients with Covid-19.
“So it is vital that the people that played such a big role getting this country through the pandemic are given additional support, and I would urge anyone working in the NHS whether you are a porter, a nurse, paramedic or other role to please ask for help from one of our 40 mental health support hubs as they open over the coming weeks.”
Mental health and wellbeing hubs are starting to open across the country in places such as North East London, Bedfordshire, and Lancashire.
The hubs have been modelled on the success of The Greater Manchester Resilience Hub which was set up to treat all those affected by the Manchester terrorist attack in 2017, including NHS staff.
The Manchester hub has also been helping NHS staff working during the pandemic and has so far supported over 4,200 health and social care staff including occupational therapist assistant, Yvette Hodge, who struggled with the pressure of the pandemic and the worry she may be putting her elderly parents who she lives with at greater risk.
Yvette Hodge who works at Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust said: ‘I was worried about my parents catching the disease and I felt guilty being at work and not being there to help them. Everything in our lives had changed, I didn’t feel the same and I couldn’t do the usual things in my life that helped me relax and unwind.
“I contacted the Greater Manchester Resilience Hub and spoke to one of their therapists and I just poured everything out to them – all my anxieties and worries – they really have been amazing and we developed a plan to help give more structure to my life.
Mental health issues contribute to staff absence and during the first wave of the pandemic, a new helpline, a 24/7 text service, and free access to wellbeing apps were set up for NHS staff struggling with their wellbeing.
In October 2020, NHS England and NHS Improvement invested an extra £15 million to strengthen mental health support for healthcare staff.
Prerana Issar, Chief People Officer for the NHS said: “We are committed to supporting all our NHS people’s health and well-being as we move through what has been an unprecedented year and that is why we have invested £15 million into dedicated mental health support for our staff.
“Through these 40 mental health and wellbeing hubs our staff will be able to get access to specialist psychological support, alongside a package of support for all our senior leaders so every person working in the NHS knows where to turn if they need support.”
“To all my NHS colleagues, it’s imperative that you reach out for support if you need it including using the range of resources available on our nhs.people.uk site.”
There is already a range of support services available to NHS workers include:
- a dedicated health and care staff support service including confidential support via phone and text message. So far, these services have been used 12,000 times.
- a specialist bereavement support helpline for those who have sadly lost friends and family – whether from COVID-19 or otherwise. So far 280 people have benefited from calls to this service
- a specialist app for Black, Asian and minority ethnic colleagues, Liberate, to manage anxiety and stress levels has had 1,200 downloads since August online resources, guidance, and webinars, which have been accessed over 700,000 times, with over 100,000 downloads of Headspace