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Saturday, 23 October 2021
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COVID-19: New research shows mental health impact on NHS staff

NEW research published today by NHS Charities Together highlights how grateful the public is to the NHS staff for supporting everyone during the COVID crisis and how proud NHS staff themselves are of the NHS itself.

Key findings from the YouGov survey of NHS workers and the general public include:

  • 86% of the general public agree NHS staff have been there for us during the pandemic, and 66% say the hard work of NHS staff during the pandemic makes them proud to be British.
  • 88% of NHS staff say they feel proud to work for the NHS – and NHS healthcare workers remain the most respected of any profession among the general public surveyed (63%).
  • Nearly two-thirds of the public (63%) say they respect NHS healthcare workers and nearly three in ten people (28%) say they would now consider a role in the NHS if they were starting their career again.

NHS Charities Together has published the research to launch a new appeal urging the public to be ‘there for them’ as NHS staff face the triple challenge of dealing with the continuing impact of COVID, tackling the backlog of other patients who desperately need treatment and making sure their own mental health isn’t a casualty of the crisis. With many experiencing mental health difficulties as a result of the pandemic, the charity says their emotional scars will take months or years to heal.

NHS Charities Together will use the funds raised through the new appeal to significantly ramp up the mental health and wellbeing programmes and facilities available for staff across the UK.

The research shows the pandemic is having a significant impact on the mental health of NHS staff. Just over half the NHS staff surveyed reported that their mental health has declined since the start of the pandemic, with over two-thirds of these (67%) reporting anxiety and a third (35%) reporting depression.

Staff attributed the greatest impact on their mental health to not being able to see friends and family (61%), not being able to make plans for the future (31%), concern about passing on COVID-19 to someone close to them (31%), worrying about their increased risks of catching and being seriously affected by COVID-19 (24%) and seeing the impact of COVID-19 on patients and their families (23%).

Speaking about the research and the appeal, Ellie Orton, CEO of NHS Charities Together, said:

“The NHS is doing a magnificent job combatting the pandemic and supporting the patients and families affected , but some of the burden is falling on NHS staff, and it is taking its toll. Staff have been making difficult decisions every day when caring for very ill patients. The public showed overwhelming support for NHS staff over the last year, and we need to continue to be there for them, now and in the longer term, as the NHS recovers from the most challenging time in its history.

“The NHS is doing all it can to support staff in this area, but the scale of the challenge is so huge. They need all of our support. It makes a huge difference for them knowing the public has got their back.”

Angela Rimington, COVID-19 Swabbing Clinical Administration Officer at Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“Staff are seeing really poorly patients and also experiencing the distress of patients’ relatives being unable to visit them. You feel other people’s grief on a daily basis. Staff also have to go home to their family, knowing that there’s a possibility they could pass it on. The workload has increased across the board, especially as we open more clinics and theatre procedures. I don’t know how staff on the immediate frontline have coped – they are truly amazing.”

Chesterfield Royal Hospital have provided additional support for staff for their physical and mental wellbeing, partially funded by donations from NHS Charities Together, and staff recognise how important having support from the public is.

“We need to remain aware of what staff have been through and not let the support for them slip. It’s quite easy to think that staff should be ‘used to it’, but they still need that support more than ever,” Angela added.

Teresa Jennings, Consultant Clinical Psychologist in Occupational Health at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“There are so many ways that staff emotional wellbeing has been impacted – there isn’t a single emotion that we haven’t seen expressed by staff during the pandemic. Support within teams will be essential to facilitate recovery. We need to help our staff process and make sense of what they have been through.”

NHS Charities Together has so far allocated £125 million in a range of projects supporting staff, patients and volunteers. These include counselling services for NHS staff, helplines and intensive psychological support for post-traumatic stress disorder through its 241 NHS member charities covering the entire UK. Funding has also supported staff with practical needs like food, drink and a place to rest, enabling staff to continue with their vital life-saving work.

The evidence shows these projects are already making a huge difference for frontline staff. Over three in ten NHS staff surveyed said they most value the counselling support and support with practical needs, like food and drink, that NHS charities have provided.

The focus for this latest appeal is on raising funds to put longer-term mental health support in place for NHS staff as they continue to tackle the challenge of dealing with COVID-19 while addressing all the other health needs of the communities they serve.

To find out more about the Be There for Them Appeal, please visit: www.nhscharitiestogether.co.uk.

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