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Respiratory nurses failed by a lack of mental health support, study finds



There were gaps in mental health support for respiratory nurses during the Covid-19 pandemic, many of whom suffered anxiety or depression, research has found.

The Glasgow Caledonian University study, published this week, surveyed 255 nursesworking with respiratory patients or patients with Covid in primary, community and secondary care settings over a three-week period in May 2020.

It found 21% experienced moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety and depression. Yet many did not access available mental health support. This could be because of stigma or that services were hard to access if remote or not face-to-face, researchers said.

Available services often included email support, signposting services, telephone support, chaplaincy, huddles or hubs, occupational support and webinars.

Principal investigator Dr Nicola Roberts said: ‘Although nurses working in respiratory areas have adapted and tried to ensure they supported each other there have been gaps in the support and management of staff.

‘There were inconsistencies in provision highlighting the importance of nursing leadership and management in ensuring equity of access to services,’ she added.

Respondents to the survey reported receiving varying additional support, including flexible working patterns (33%), emotional support (29%) and clear leadership (29%).

Although only 50% of respondents worried about contracting the virus themselves, 66% worried their working environment put their families at risk of catching the virus. They also listed worries about PPE, quality of care and impacts on their families’ mental health.

Dr Roberts stressed that NHS staff were already experiencing high levels of mental health issues, anxiety and depression even before Covid-19.

She continued: ‘We need a more personalised approach to how we manage mental health and resilience in organisations at all levels individually, teams, departments and organisations as a whole, and in a more supportive way rather than just a tick box exercise.’

Earlier this week, MPs warned healthcare workers have been under ‘constant pressure’ during the Covid-19 pandemic and called for a Government plan to support them by the end of October.

Last year, Nursing in Practice took an in-depth look at the toll of Covid-19 on nurses’ mental health.

To complete relevant respiratory CPD modules for nurses, click here