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Warning over nurses experiencing panic attacks and stress-related symptoms

Warning over nurses experiencing panic attacks and stress-related symptoms

Panic attacks, high blood pressure, chest pains and headaches suffered by nurses are contributing to absences exacerbating an NHS staffing crisis, according to the union Unison.

Unison’s latest workforce analysis, based on a survey of 12,000 health workers across the UK, found that more than three in 10 (31%) NHS employees have had to take time off work with mental health issues in the past year.

One nurse in Northern Ireland told the survey: ‘I’ve been experiencing stress-related symptoms, headaches, palpitations and chest pain.

‘The level of stress affects my home life as it causes worry and brain fog.’

The union warned that NHS staff have reported experiencing depression, low mood, sleepless nights and flashbacks, and that the effects of burnout could mean many quit altogether.

Helga Pile, Unison head of health, said: ‘As more staff quit, the pressures increase for those still working in the NHS, and many are struggling to cope.

‘No one should suffer stress-related issues such as panic attacks and chest pains because of their job.

‘Employers must do more to recognise the overwhelming pressures on all NHS staff,’ Ms Pile added.

The findings of the research also suggest that stigma around anxiety and depression is a major issue for health workers.

Of those who were off with mental health problems, one in five did not tell their employer the real cause of their absence, with the main reason being they did not feel their manager or employer would be supportive (45%).

More than one in five (22%) said they did not want their colleagues to know they had mental health issues.

While almost a quarter (24%) were able to ask their employer for help with their mental health in the previous 18 months, nearly half (48%) of those who took this step said they did not feel supported.

The vast majority of those surveyed (89%) said better pay and recognition would make a difference to their wellbeing.

Safer staffing levels (82%), measures to stop bullying and harassment (68%) and a change in work pattern (58%) also scored highly, along with access to a 24-hour counselling service (51%) and access to a wellbeing app (49%).

According to Ms Pile, the range of support available to workers experiencing mental health issues needs to be reviewed.

‘Managers must also ensure staffing levels are safe and that employees have regular breaks,’ she added.

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