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Boost to mental health support for NHS staff

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The pandemic has added extra pressure to NHS staff The pandemic has added extra pressure to NHS staff

Staff will get rapid access to expanded mental health services that are being rolled out across the country as part of efforts to deal with the second wave of coronavirus, NHS England has announced.

NHS England and NHS Improvement will invest an extra £15 million to strengthen mental health support for nurses, paramedics, therapists, pharmacists, and support staff. Staff referred by themselves or colleagues will be rapidly assessed and treated by local expert mental health specialists. Those with the most severe needs will be referred to a specialist centre of excellence. The investment will fund outreach work among those deemed most as risk such as critical care staff.

Read more: The suicide crisis in nursing

‘I want nursing, midwifery and care colleagues to know we have listened to your feedback during COVID-19 and will continue to listen,’ said Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England.

‘This package is designed to enhance support for your health and wellbeing during shifts and to provide additional mental health support when you need it.’

Mental health problems are one of the main reasons for staff absences, with latest data showing that anxiety, stress and other psychiatric illness accounted for 28.3% of all sickness leave in May 2020. The £15 million funding package will be spent on creating a national support service for critical care staff who research suggests are most vulnerable to severe trauma, and funding nationwide outreach and assessment services, ensuring staff receive rapid access to evidence based mental health services.

Read more: Recruitment drive to tackle loneliness and improve lives

‘This pandemic has required nursing staff to show incredible dedication. Some nursing staff have had to make decisions that put patients’ needs above their own. They have stayed away from friends and family, in hotels, so they can keep working. They have worked longer hours in highly pressurised settings,’ said Dame Donna Kinnair, RCN Chief Executive and General Secretary.

‘We welcome this further support that recognises what healthcare staff have had to put up with, and hope this is the only the start of a sustained focus on the wellbeing of nursing staff. Many of the factors that worsen the wellbeing of the workforce existed before COVID-19 such as unhealthy working patterns and a severe shortage of staff. Employers, in all settings and sectors, must determine the impact these issues have on their staff and take action immediately.’

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