Dr Rosena Allin-Khan MP, Labour’s Shadow Mental Health Minister, has today written to Matt Hancock for assurances that our frontline staff are getting the mental health support that they so desperately need, and deserve.
In the letter she highlights:
· The need for PTSD support.
· The benefit of talking therapies for all staff, including outsourced workers.
· The need for real-time data on suicide numbers.
Rosena Allin-Khan said:
“NHS and care staff are breaking down – I see it first-hand working shifts. It is simply heart-breaking to see the toll this virus is taking on our frontline staff.
“Our frontline NHS and care staff are doing fantastic work in extremely difficult circumstances. They risk their lives every day in order to protect us.
“Unless our staff are protected, they cannot continue their vital work of keeping us all safe.”
Full text of letter:
Since the first case of COVID-19 in the UK at the end of January, our fantastic NHS workforce have gone above and beyond for the safety of our country. Working in the health and care sector is not a job – it is a vocation, meaning the effects that the current strains are having on staff mental health, cannot be underestimated.
Increasingly, NHS staff are breaking down – I see it first-hand working shifts. From a fear of spreading the virus to patients and loved ones, a lack of PPE, an increased workload owing to the number of cases and staff absences, to being redeployed to ICUs and witnessing more patients die – staff are experiencing greater pressure, which is inevitably taking its toll on their mental health. At this time of crisis, staff mental health must be a priority now. It simply cannot be an afterthought once the acute stage of the crisis is over.
I would be grateful if you could outline what provisions are in place to support the mental health of frontline staff throughout the crisis, including what additional measures the Government have implemented for staff, including outsourced staff, to access during these difficult times?
In addition to this, please clarify how many Wellbeing Teams have been cut from hospital trusts in the last ten years?
Once the acute stage of the crisis is over, the strain on frontline staff mental health will not be eased and must not be forgotten. As you are aware, PTSD can present months and even years after the initial trauma. For many on the frontline, it will undoubtedly take a long time to process the trauma that they have experienced, especially considering the increased pressure placed on them when tackling the backlog across all specialties. It is vital that frontline NHS and care staff can access PTSD support, as soon as it is required. Could you outline what long-term measures the Government have planned regarding the mental health of frontline NHS and care staff, including the provision of PTSD services?
As I speak to my colleagues across the country and in our unions, it is clear that there is a rise in suicides, self-harm and suicidal ideation among frontline NHS and care staff. It is vital that in order to tackle this, there is real-time data to understand where particular pinch points may be and where resources need to be directed. How does the Government plan to track and monitor the number of these instances, including assessing whether there are specific clusters, and what does the Government plan to do in order to help frontline workers who are dealing with suicidal thoughts at this time?
The need for talking therapies is now more important than ever. I understand that the NHS Practitioner Health scheme, which offers face-to-face support for doctors and dentists, is widely valued. Would the Government support extending this service to all frontline NHS and care staff during this crisis? If not, how does the Government plan to ensure that the rest of the workforce does not fall through the cracks?
Our frontline NHS and care staff are doing fantastic work in extremely difficult circumstances. Unless our staff are safe, they cannot keep us all healthy.
I look forward to your response.