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The chief executive of the Florence Nightingale Foundation has welcomed extra funding for nurse mental health care this winter, warning that failure to invest in their wellbeing would carry “catastrophic” consequences for both staff and patients.
Professor Greta Westwood (pictured above) said the scale of need for psychological help among nurses and midwives on the Covid-19 frontline had been made clear by the demand shown for the charity’s own support service.
The foundation launched its Nightingale Frontline: Leadership Support Service in May to provide nursing staff with emotional and wellbeing support, involving trained specialists helping them develop the skills to support each other.
“Nurses and midwives have been challenged on a daily basis since the pandemic began”
She said among the concerns being raised by those who had accessed the service in the first wave were feelings of isolation and distress at having to cope with the large numbers of patients requiring end-of-life care.
With the second surge now underway, she praised NHS England and NHS Improvement for pledging this week an additional £15m to provide health professionals with access to “rapid assessment and treatment” for mental health concerns over the winter.
Professor Westwood said: “Nurses and midwives have been challenged on a daily basis since the pandemic began.
“As we face the second wave of Covid-19, we need to ensure that those working on the frontline have an outlet for support. Protecting their mental health is of paramount importance.”
Professor Westwood warned that nurse wellbeing was an issue of patient as well as health worker safety.
“If the mental health needs of nurses and midwives are overlooked, it will have a catastrophic effect on not only them, but also the patients who so desperately need urgent nursing care,” she said.
“It equipped me with the skills to ease my anxiety during intensely busy periods”
The foundation launched its support service to give nursing and midwifery leaders a safe space to talk and to help equip them with the tools to look after their own mental health and that of their teams in the wake of Covid-19.
More than 1,500 people have participated in the programme to date and the foundation said demand for the service was continuing to grow.
Among those who have benefited from the programme is Mandeep Lally, sister at University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust.
Reflecting on the session she attended, Ms Lally said: “It equipped me with the skills to ease my anxiety during intensely busy periods, gave me the confidence I need to provide support to my colleagues and my team who have never experienced the likes of Covid-19 before.”
The comments from Professor Westwood follow assurances from the chief nursing officers for England, Wales and Northern Ireland earlier this week that nurses struggling with the pressures of Covid-19 would face “no stigma” for seeking mental health support.
Nursing Times is seeking to raise awareness of the mental health needs of nurses both during and after the coronavirus pandemic through our Covid-19: Are You OK? campaign.
We recently began the second phase of the campaign, calling on organisations to support us and healthcare providers to sign a pledge to back the campaign’s principles and ensure their staff receive the support they need.
The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust, Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust have been the first trusts to sign the pledge.