The NHS is set to open 40 dedicated mental health support hubs for healthcare workers across England, which will offer confidential advice for frontline staff who have ‘pushed their minds and bodies to the limit’ over the past year.
Staff can access services over the phone, with onward referral to online and one-to-one support from mental health clinicians, therapists, recovery workers and psychologists.
NHS staff will be encouraged to reach out directly for help, but hubs will proactively contact staff groups who are most at risk of experiencing poor mental health.
Mental health in the NHS
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.”
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.”
The hubs have been modelled on The Greater Manchester Resilience Hub, which was set up to treat those affected by the Manchester Arena terrorist attack in 2017. The hub has been supporting NHS staff throughout the pandemic, with 4,200 health and social care workers using its services so far.
Other support services available for frontline health workers include a confidential phone and text messaging support service; a specialist bereavement support helpline; and a specialist app called Liberate that provides support for Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff, who have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19.
Mental health charity Mind said the creation of the hubs was an important first step to tackling poor mental health within the NHS, but there was an urgent need for a clear plan to improve staff wellbeing and the provision of clear pathways to clinical care if needed.
“Even before the pandemic many healthcare staff told us they were struggling with the toll things like long and unsociable working hours and excessive workload were taking on their mental health,” said Mind chief executive Paul Farmer. “The outbreak of coronavirus has caused staff unprecedented challenges; including having to make even more difficult life and death decisions, dealing with bereavement, risking their own health and that of their loved ones every day in order to help protect others and save lives.”