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expert reaction to announcement by NHS England that they have launched a mental health hotline for staff tackling COVID-19

NHS England have announced that they are launching a mental health hotline for staff tackling COVID-19.


Prof Dame Til Wykes, Professor of Clinical Psychology and Rehabilitation, Institute of Psychiatry Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London (IoPPN), said:

“I am glad there is so much support being volunteered. In the longer term this may also be important but in the beginning staff need a reduction in their worries and concerns so a priority should be access to resources like accommodation, contacts with friends and family, no worries about finances, food and toilet paper …… and of course sleep and reducing concern over inadequate PPE. That would reduce anxiety now. Next on the list is team support so extra help is needed as soon as it is noticed. The team in China set up a mental health line and hardly anyone called. King’s College hospital set up a rest and relaxation room and in one day 700 people used it.”


Prof Tom Dening, Director of the Centre for Old Age and Dementia, Institute of Mental Health, University of Nottingham, said:

The mental health of NHS staff is going to be absolutely crucial in the nation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Staff are being exposed to high levels of personal risk, long hours in difficult environments clad in PPE, and also the possibility of something known as moral injury, which is the distressing awareness you may feel when you know you can’t meet all the needs of the people you are trying to care for. This combination of factors would rattle even the most resilient of us. Most support for NHS workers is going to be within their teams, with their peer workers, and being supported by their managers, but there will be occasions when it is a relief to talk to someone outside of the immediate workplace. Hopefully this new initiative will be evaluated to make sure that it is being used and that it is seen as helpful by people who use it.

“I do have a concern that yet again, however, people working in social care are being overlooked. It would be good to see a resource like this being made available to staff who work in care homes or people who provide care to frail people at home – after all, without their continuing input, our hospitals really would be overburdened.”


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