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The combination of rising Covid-19 cases and related restrictions with autumn’s grey skies and rainy days is probably having a negative effect on the way many people feel at the moment – I know it has affected me.
But that is nothing compared with the negative impact a severe second wave of Covid-19 and so-called ‘long Covid’ could have on the mental health of nurses and other health professionals. Not only will they coincide with the usual winter pressures but the workforce is still recovering from dealing with the first wave.
That is one of the reasons Nursing Times launched its Covid-19: Are You OK? campaign to raise awareness of nurse wellbeing and mental health.
We recently began the second phase of the campaign, which has seen an increasing number of organisations supporting us, while healthcare providers are also signing a pledge to back the campaign’s principles and ensure their staff receive the support they need.
Thank you to The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust, Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust for being the first to sign the pledge.
“I was delighted to see that three of the UK’s most senior nurses had this week highlighted the huge psychological stress placed on the profession”
Meanwhile, I am grateful to the influential workforce leadership body NHS Employers for supporting the campaign and encouraging others to do so.
With all this in mind, I was delighted to see that three of the UK’s most senior nurses had this week highlighted the huge psychological stress placed on the profession by Covid-19.
The chief nursing officers of England, Wales and Northern Ireland all spoke out during the Queen’s Nursing Institute annual conference to assure staff they should face “no stigma” for asking for help.
Ruth May, Professor Jean White, and Professor Charlotte McArdle, CNOs of England, Wales and Northern Ireland respectively, cited the mental health and wellbeing of nurses as a key priority.
During the session, Ms May revealed that new funding was to be announced imminently for staff mental health support in England, which she indicated would be led by nurses for nurses.
Soon after, NHS England and NHS Improvement confirming a new £15m package that they said would support efforts to deal with the second wave of Covid-19 cases in the months ahead.
In addition, Professor White said she was considering whether a proactive element needed to be added to existing counselling services to pick up nurses at risk before they became unwell.
Likewise, Professor McArdle said more was in the pipeline to protect nurse mental health in Northern Ireland, stating that there was “absolutely no stigma attached to reaching out for help”.
Coming from three CNOs, this is a powerful statement, which comes on the back of warnings about mental health from the King’s Fund, Laura Hyde Foundation, British Medical Association and others.
“I also hope to see more nurse leaders pledging to do what they can to support their staff”
Keeping the issue of nurse mental health and wellbeing at the top of the agenda as we head towards winter and beyond is something Nursing Times will be doing at every opportunity.
I also hope to see more nurse leaders pledging to do what they can to support their staff, by signing up their trusts to the Covid-19: Are You OK? campaign. There is no stigma attached.