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A mental health support service previously only for doctors is to be expanded to provide support and advice for all frontline NHS Wales staff during the Covid-19 crisis, ministers have announced.
The free Health for Health Professionals scheme will receive an additional £1m from the government so it can be extended to 60,000 NHS Wales staff tackling the coronavirus pandemic.
“This virus has no boundaries so the way we provide support must have no boundaries”
Investment in the service, run by Cardiff University, will mean it can employ more psychiatrists and advisers, run more counselling sessions and further post-traumatic stress disorder interventions.
It will offer an “unprecedented level of support and advice” to all healthcare professional, including doctors, nurses and students, working in Wales during and post the pandemic, said the government.
Under the scheme, staff will be able to call a confidential helpline, receive access to face-to-face counselling sessions and be provided with guided self-help tools and online resources.
The service will also support returning retired staff and healthcare professional students who are volunteering to assist in response to Covid-19, said the government.
Welsh health and social services minister Vaughan Gething said: “Covid-19 is an unprecedented event. Our NHS staff are at the frontline of the response.
“The health and wellbeing of our all our dedicated NHS Wales staff is paramount at all times but especially so during this acutely challenging time – so it’s vital we do all we can to care for them.
“The £1m I am announcing today will help the Health for Health Professionals service in Wales expand, so that they can deal with the additional demand from NHS staff.
Professor Debbie Cohen, director of Health for Health Professionals, said: “This is an extremely difficult time for healthcare workers who are on the frontline of the fight against Covid-19.
“It is absolutely vital that these workers have a confidential space where they feel they can talk to peers and can access help and support in a way that suits them.
She added: “This virus has no boundaries so the way we provide support must have no boundaries.”
The service is available by calling 0800 058 2738 or by visiting the Health for Health Professionals website.
The announcement comes shortly after Nursing Times launched a new campaign called Covid-19: Are You OK? to ensure that supporting nurse mental health is on the radar of employers.
The campaign will highlight the mental health pressures and needs of nurses during and after the coronavirus pandemic, and lobby for immediate and long-lasting support.
Last week, NHS England announced that a new helpline was being launched for nurses and other frontline staff who need support with their mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic.