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COVID-19 and the need for ‘mental PPE’

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Mental health If the crisis point for healthy care professionals of the early pandemic was the lack of adequate PPE, the current one is of mental health

The old cliché of progress being measured by two steps forward, one step back (or possibly one step forward two steps back), has been the story of the UK’s efforts to control COVID-19. Many of us expected the journey out of pandemic to be like being in a car on a hill, requiring constant touches on the brakes as it gathers too much pace on the descent.

But with the UK on its third lockdown, hospitals again stretched to breaking point, and weekly news of new strains emerging it feels like another emergency stop. Fortunately the emergence of vaccines, and the heroic efforts to roll them out as quickly as possible are a sight of level ground, even if the compulsive boosterism of the Prime Minister made many feel it was closer than it actually was, with predictably grave consequences.

For the carers working in the present tense, rather than the preferred future, life is very tough. ICUs are again stretched to breaking point, and staff who have been at high levels of intensity for 10 months have found no respite yet. Small wonder that the chair of the British Association of Critical Care Nurses, Nicki Credland has warned that her members have been ‘traumatised’ by the pandemic, and there may be an exodus of them from the NHS.

If the crisis point for healthy care professionals of the early pandemic was the lack of adequate PPE, the current one is of mental health. We have recently published a fascinating audit of the psychological effects of the pandemic from a nurse in the Midlands, and it’s the sort of project we should see more of. As the Government announces welcome plans to update mental health provision for patients, we need a similar effort for carers. PPE for the mind is as essential as it is for the body.

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