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Wellbeing support hubs will be contacting the NHS staff at greatest risk of suffering mental health problems as a result of working during the pandemic.
The NHS announced that 40 support hubs across England would soon be offering staff access to mental health services that have a proven record of working.
Employees are being encouraged to reach out directly for help but the hubs will also proactively contact the staff groups who are most at-risk.
There has been widespread concern over the strain placed on health and care staff by the pandemic.
In April 2020, Nursing Times launched Covid-19: Are You OK? as the first wave began to take its toll on staff, and the campaign continues to push for better support.
Last month a survey for Unison of 14,000 health workers found that almost half (48%) were struggling to cope while 51% had sought mental health support as a result of working during the pandemic.
The new hubs are based locally and will vary in how they operate based on the needs of local healthcare staff, an NHS England spokesperson said.
They are confidential and free of charge, with the majority of services provided online.
Staff can access the hubs over the phone or online before being referred to one-to-one expert help from qualified mental health clinicians.
Eighteen hubs are already up and running.
“It’s vital that the people who played such a big role getting this country through the pandemic are given additional support”
They have been modelled on the Greater Manchester Resilience Hub, which was set up after the Manchester terrorist attack in 2017 to treat all those whose mental health was affected, including NHS staff.
The Greater Manchester project has been helping NHS staff during the pandemic and has so far supported more than 4,200 health and social care staff.
It offers a range of services including online peer support sessions for people who have experienced similar difficulties, support for Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff, wellbeing screenings, support for families of health and care workers, and handouts giving advice on issues such as survivor guilt.
Yvette Hodge, who works as an occupational therapist at Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust, was one of those who relied on the Manchester hub.
She was worried about not being there to support her parents and potentially putting them at greater risk of infection.
“I felt guilty being at work and not being there to help them,” said Ms Hodge.
“Everything in our lives had changed, I didn’t feel the same and I couldn’t do the usual things in my life that helped me relax and unwind.
“I contacted the Greater Manchester Resilience Hub and spoke to one of their therapists and I just poured everything out to them – all my anxieties and worries – they really have been amazing and we developed a plan to help give more structure to my life.”
Claire Murdoch, NHS national mental health director and a mental health nurse, said health workers had put their “minds and bodies to the limit” during an “exceptional year” and required extra support.
“It’s vital that the people who played such a big role getting this country through the pandemic are given additional support,” she added.
“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.”
In October 2020, NHS England and NHS Improvement invested an extra £15m to improve mental health support for healthcare staff.
The following support hubs are already up and running: Lancashire and South Cumbria; Greater Manchester; North East and North Cumbria; Black Country and West Yorkshire; Birmingham and Solihull; Nottinghamshire; Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland; Norfolk and Suffolk; Bedfordshire; Luton and Milton Keynes; Hertfordshire and Essex; North East London; North West London; Kent and Medway; Sussex; Frimley; Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West; Surrey; Dorset.