All NHS workers should have self-referral access to a ‘practitioner psychological treatment service’ as part of an improved mental health support for staff.
Health Education England (HEE) made the recommendation as part of their NHS staff and learners’ mental wellbeing commission report, written to support the NHS Long Term Plan and the mental wellbeing of staff.
They also recommended that a national NHS ‘Samaritans-style’ service should be developed to provide ‘complete emotional support’ to NHS staff, and students learning within hospitals.
All NHS organisations should appoint a ‘workplace wellbeing leader’ and a ‘workforce wellbeing guardian’, who will work together to support staff.
In particular, the wellbeing guardian will be tasked with ensuring there are check-in meetings provided to new staff, and that the mental health of NHS staff is not ‘compromised by the work they do’.
The report highlighted female nurses as being at particularly high suicide risk, and suggested that the NHS focus on these high-risk groups when working to prevent suicide among staff.
Undergraduates and student nurses working within the NHS should also receive support, with recommendations made for schools and universities to make sure potential recruits are suitably able to cope with the pressures of working in the health service.
But Dame Donna Kinnair, chair of the Royal College of Nursing, feels that ensuring there are adequate staff numbers would go a long way to improving the mental health of nurses on the job.
She said: ‘Nursing staff are working in ever more pressurised environments and we know that their physical and mental health can sometimes suffer as a result, leaving them with little in the tank to care for themselves. The government is right to recognise this as an issue and to commit to providing support for those in difficulty.
‘When it comes down to the wellbeing of both patients and staff alike there is no substitute for having the right number of nurses in the right place at the right time – that’s why we’re calling on the government to increase the supply of nurses by putting at least £1billion to into nursing higher education.’