Health secretary Matt Hancock’s claim that a new mental health service will support all NHS staff including nurses was incorrect, it has emerged.
The service, NHS Practitioner Health, was first billed as a 24/7 access to confidential advice and support for doctors and dentists – but Mr Hancock contradicted this when he reassured concerned nurses that the service would support them too.
Nurses and other NHS staff are instead encouraged to contact local mental health services, a Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson has since clarified.
However, they ‘can contact NHS Practitioner Health if they feel they have nowhere to turn and the service will aim to signpost them to the most appropriate help,’ the spokesperson added.
Yes. It has been designed for doctors but will also support nurses and all other staff in the NHS. I want to see specific support for all NHS staff. As Clare Gerada has said, everyone from a porter to senior manager has to cope with traumatic events and needs help available
— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) October 21, 2019
A spokesperson for the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) told Nursing in Practice that Matt Hancock ‘should clarify what support is available to nursing staff’ after his tweet.
They continued: ‘It is no good for nurses to be told that a scheme includes them one minute, and closed to them the next, with no indication as to how the service will be funded to meet any extra demand.’
Currently, the NHS Practioner Health programme is only funded to support doctors and dentists, including in-person or over the phone if they’ve faced a stressful incident at work or feel they are struggling with their mental health.
Earlier this year, the Government set out plans for 24-hour mental health support for all NHS staff including nurses – but the RCN spokesperson pointed out that ‘we still know little about’ the scheme or ‘even if it has got off the ground at all’.
The DHSC told Nursing in Practice it remains ‘committed’ to looking into implementing mental health support for all NHS staff as part of the upcoming NHS People Plan, which is due to be published by the end of 2019.
They continued: ‘We want all NHS staff to feel supported at work and the upcoming People Plan will put wellbeing of all employees across the health service at the heart of ensuring the NHS is a great place to work.’