Nurses will be able to access expanded mental health services, backed by a £15m investment, NHS England and NHS Improvement have announced today.
Nurses – and staff such as pharmacists, therapists and paramedics – can refer themselves or be referred by colleagues to be ‘rapidly’ assessed and treated by local mental health specialists, as part of the extra services.
The investment will fund outreach work for those deemed most at risk, such as critical care staff. Those with the most severe needs will be referred to a specialist centre of excellence.
In addition, well-being and psychological training will be developed, and this is set to be rolled out this winter.
The cash comes amid concerns from nursing leaders over staff well-being during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
RCN chief executive Dame Donna Kinnair said she hopes it is ‘only the start of a sustained focus on the wellbeing of nursing staff’ following their ‘incredible dedication’ during the pandemic.
National nursing leaders raised concerns about staff well-being during Covid-19 at the Queen’s Nursing Institute annual conference yesterday.
England’s chief nursing officer (CNO) Ruth May urged nurses to look after themselves ‘physically and mentally’, adding that ‘there is no stigma attached to reaching out for support for your mental health’.
Northern Ireland CNO Professor Charlotte McArdle said: ‘We do need to create mechanisms for people to confidentially find support, and that’s one of the things that I am absolutely committed to doing for this second wave.’
The Welsh CNO Professor Jean White said that ‘the pressure on nursing staff has been extraordinary’ during Covid-19, adding that is often ‘spilling over into their personal lives’.
She continued: ‘I think it was obvious that people were under a lot of emotional stress [due to] the burden of providing that type of care consistently over a period in surge one.’
Wales has created a ‘number of resources’ such as expanding the Help for Health Professionals scheme to nurses, which was originally only available for doctors, she added.
But Professor White also suggested that support services should stop ‘waiting for people to ask for help’ and seek out those who need support.
She said: ‘Maybe we should actually now be more proactive, reaching into teams to say, ‘who’s at risk here and what more support can we offer?’
Mental health problems are one of the main reasons for nurse absences. The latest data shows anxiety, stress and other psychiatric illness accounted for 25% of nurse sickness leave in May 2020.
Nursing in Practice took an in-depth look at the impact of Covid-19 on the mental health of nurses and healthcare staff last month.