Pandemic mental toll expected to drain NHS for ‘many years’
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Some 83 percent of frontline workers say demand is growing “significantly” while 96 percent think it will stay this way, despite a fall in COVID-19 cases. Eight in 10 say increasing pressures on services are just as concerning as the peak of the pandemic itself. Major fears among those at the heart of the health service include clinics being overwhelmed due to a backlog of patients and large waiting lists.
Staff worry about an explosion of patient ill health due to conditions not being treated in the pandemic and winter pressures such as respiratory illnesses. The first inside view of health of the NHS is laid bare in a YouGov poll of 1,000 staff for NHS Charities Together.
Chief executive Ellie Orton said: “This research shows the vast majority of staff are incredibly proud to work for the NHS and believe our health service did the best possible job tackling COVID-19. But it also shows the huge mental toll the pandemic took and continues to take. The impact is expected to last for many years, which is why we must be there for staff in the long term.
“Thanks to generous donations from the public we have been able to provide immediate help in every corner of the UK, including counselling, helplines and peer-to-peer support. But with pressures on services mounting, we need to significantly increase the mental health and wellbeing support available for staff, so they can continue their vital, life-saving work.”
As Britain reeled from the greatest emergency in the history of the NHS its selfless staff carried on regardless. But the emotional and psychological impact of treating seriously sick patients and watching tens of thousands die has had a huge, often unnoticed impact.
Four in ten have suffered anxiety since the pandemic erupted in March 2020 while one quarter reported depression. Two thirds have been able to access support but it is not enough. More than a third would still benefit from psychological support and/or counselling while one in ten want intensive therapy for trauma support.
NHS Charities Together, the national charity partner of the NHS, has raised more than £150million through its COVID-19 Urgent Appeal, which launched at the start of the pandemic.
Grants issued to every one of its 240 member charities through the appeal have provided help to patients, staff and volunteers. It has made £125million available to NHS charities and distributed more than £48million last year, £30million of which was used in the first six months.
This year another £78million is being distributed to support communities outside of hospitals. In the future, funds will be used to help the NHS recover from the long-term impact of COVID-19.
Projects include counselling services, helplines and psychological support for post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as training for emergency responders, research into long COVID-19, bereavement support and specialist equipment.
It has benefited people such as matron Angela McGarry at Airedale NHS Foundation Trust, West and North Yorkshire, where cash created a garden.
She said: “I was on shift and was told my dad, who was on a ventilator in an intensive care unit in my hospital, would not recover from COVID-19.
In the next half hour I had to prepare myself for the ventilator to be turned off. I would have loved nothing more than to have sat in our beautiful wellbeing garden to reflect on something that would impact on the rest of my life. The funding we’ve had from the generous donations has meant we have been able to improve our garden and provide other areas for people to stop and take a moment.”
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