New Mental Health Service for NHS Staff Dealing With COVID-19

Peter Russell

April 08, 2020

The NHS has launched a mental health hotline to help support health workers dealing with COVID-19.

The phone line will be open between 7am and 11pm each day, while a text service will be available round the clock, 7 days a week.

More than 1500 volunteers from charities including Hospice UK, the Samaritans, and Shout will staff the lines to give psychological support to NHS staff in need.

"We need to do everything we can to support our incredible NHS people as they care for people through this global health emergency," said Prerana Issar, chief people officer for the NHS.

"That’s why we have developed a range of support for all NHS staff, from one-to-one mental health support to a sympathetic voice to confide in."

Callers who need further help will be signposted to other services ranging from practical and financial assistance through to specialist bereavement and psychological support.

Free Apps

The NHS has also partnered with Headspace, Unmind and Big Health to offer a suite of apps for no charge to help staff with their mental health.

The apps can assist in guided meditation, reduce anxiety, and improve sleep.

NHS Employers said staff should be actively encouraged to use the service, in addition to health and wellbeing support offered by their own organisations.

Danny Mortimer, its chief executive, said: "We know our teams are providing tremendous support, not just to the patients they're treating, but to each other, across the health service. It's extremely heartening to see this kind of support will be available to NHS teams, via phone, text and online.

"As the pandemic continues, our people will face new and growing challenges on a daily basis, and it's therefore more important than ever that they are able to access resources to help them manage their wellbeing, in a way that suits their needs."

Mental Health of NHS Staff 'Will Be Crucial'

Prof Tom Dening, director of the Centre for Old Age and Dementia at the University of Nottingham, commented to the Science Media Centre: "The mental health of NHS staff is going to be absolutely crucial in the nation's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

"Staff are being exposed to high levels of personal risk, long hours in difficult environments clad in PPE, and also the possibility of something known as moral injury, which is the distressing awareness you may feel when you know you can't meet all the needs of the people you are trying to care for. This combination of factors would rattle even the most resilient of us.

"Most support for NHS workers is going to be within their teams, with their peer workers, and being supported by their managers, but there will be occasions when it is a relief to talk to someone outside of the immediate workplace."

Prof Dening said he had concerns whether the service would be available for people working in social care.

Health and care workers can access the free wellbeing support helpline on 0300 131 7000, or can text FRONTLINE to 85258.

NHS Employers has issued a guide on support available during the COVID-19 pandemic.


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