Half of healthcare workers say their mental health has declined in the last eight weeks, since the coronavirus outbreak, a survey published yesterday has revealed.
The Care fit for carers report from the Institute of Public Policy Research thinktank, found that the coronavirus pandemic is having a ‘severe impact’ on the mental health of healthcare workers. Many will experience stress, anxiety, bereavement or trauma, it added.
In YouGov polling, half of staff (50%) cited mental health as having been impacted by Covid-19, ahead of worries about family safety (49%) and the ability to ensure patient or service-user safety (43%) because of a lack of testing and personal protective equipment.
The report stated: ‘[Staying mentally healthy] will be made harder by the impact of social distancing on their support network. Yet, many are not eligible for bespoke therapy – and will be forced to cope alone.’
It also found that one in five (21%) healthcare professionals say Covid-19 has made them more like to leave the profession, which could ‘create a catastrophic crisis of capacity’ because of chronic staff shortages.
All healthcare workers should receive a Covid-19 pay bonus of 10% to recognise how the sector has gone ‘above and beyond’ during the pandemic, the report said in a series of recommendations.
It stated: ’Now, just as after World War One there was the ‘homes fit for heroes’ drive and after World War Two the establishment of the ‘cradle to grave’ NHS, the government must now deliver ‘care fit for carers’.’
The thinktank also said the Government should extend priority access to therapy to an additional 2 million patient-facing healthcare professionals. Currently, the specialist NHS mental health service is only available to doctors and dentists.
It also urged the Government to extensively repurpose UK manufacturing for PPE and ramp up testing of health and care staff. This follows reports of inadequate PPE and testing for healthcare staff.
It praised NHS England for providing hotel stays free of charge for redeployed or self-isolated health workers – but said the scheme must be extended to those travelling long distances to work, working long shifts or who are anxious about family safety.
The accommodation offer should also be extended to the care sector and any healthcare worker who falls into arrears during this crisis period should be given full grants, it added.
The Government should also fund more childcare provision and community support schemes to help healthcare workers look after children and elderly or ill relatives.
Chief executive of NHS Employers Danny Mortimer said: ‘The NHS is fundamentally the 1.4 million people who work in every part of our services and teams.
‘During the biggest challenge in its history, national and local health leaders are doing everything they can to support them, and we are humbled by the support offered by our local communities and businesses.’
He continued: ‘Health workers (and our colleagues in social care) will need support long after the pandemic has abated, and so it is more important than ever that they are able to access resources to manage their wellbeing, in a way that suits their needs.’
NHS staff can call 0300 131 7000, or text FRONTLINE to 85258, to receive help and advice around daily pressures.