Breathing and space have defined the last year for hospital staff: ventilators have saved lives, and masks have limited infections, but having time and space to breathe has become a luxury for many on the frontline.
Report after report has highlighted that NHS staff are experiencing high levels of burnout due to the demands of an already high-pressured job, although heightened to new levels of stress and demand due to the pandemic’s toll, alongside treating other unrelated conditions.
Additionally, hospital staff have been put at risk of infection from the virus and of related experiences of trauma due to inadequate PPE supplies and the surge of Covid-19 patients. Last year, over 850 UK healthcare workers died from Covid-19, and many thousands of NHS staff contracted the virus.
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Free, confidential advice and support for NHS staff who have cared for millions with Covid-19
As a result, the NHS plans to expand the mental health support offered to staff through 40 dedicated mental health support hubs to be opened up across the country. The NHS said at the launch that through the hubs, staff will be offered online and one-to-one expert therapy provided by mental health clinicians, recovery workers, and psychologists.
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, described these hubs' launch as "an important step forwards when it comes to recognising and tackling poor mental health within the NHS". But he also called on the Government and the NHS to set out a plan in the next few months to further improve mental health support for staff and to identify those who may be struggling.
Prerana Issar, Chief People Officer for the NHS, said at the launch: "We are committed to supporting all our NHS people's health and wellbeing 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."