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Mental health support to be offered to NHS staff around the clock

National Health Service (NHS) workers could be offered 24-hour mental health support under government plans to reduce sickness absence rates and improve staff performance and retention. 

Mental health support to be offered to NHS staff around the clock
Image credit: ©Pablo_K
The dedicated service means doctors, nurses and other frontline staff would be able to access confidential advice and support 24 hours a day. 
 
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) outlined the new plans yesterday (20 February), which also include fast-tracked mental health referrals for NHS employees if requested as a priority from either a GP or an occupational health clinician. 
 
Other initiatives are peer group support or a more formal psychological assessment for frontline staff who may have witnessed a serious incident. 
 
Rest spaces with shower facilities and refreshments will be created for staff and trainees during and after their shifts.
 
The government said it will also consider creating the role of board-level “Workforce Wellbeing Guardians” in every NHS organisation to champion mental health and wellbeing support for staff.
 
The latest NHS staff survey showed that less than a third of staff felt their organisation took positive action towards improving their health and wellbeing. 
 
Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said: “Working under pressure, NHS staff put themselves in some of the most challenging situations imaginable as part of the unwavering commitment to caring for us all. So they deserve unwavering support from us all. The mental and physical wellbeing of the people who work in our health service must be our utmost priority.”
 
He said there was a need to create “the right culture of support” and “give everyone somewhere to turn in the toughest times”.  
 
The measures are based on recommendations made by Health Education England (HEE) in its new report on the mental health and wellbeing of NHS staff and learners. The report was commissioned last year by the DHSC. 
 
Professor Ian Cumming, chief executive of HEE, said: “I am committed to making sure that the commission takes full advantage of this opportunity to make a real difference to the NHS health and care workforce and to those studying to become our future healthcare staff. 
 
“It is vital that staff feel they are supported and that employers have the right procedures in place to offer all the help that may be needed. The mental wellbeing of staff contributes positively to patient care so we must get it right.”

 

Keeley Downey is acting deputy editor of IOSH Magazine. She is a former editor of Biofuels International, Bioenergy Insight and Tank Cleaning Magazine

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