The Government should ‘take inspiration’ from mental health support for war veterans when designing similar services for NHS staff, leading healthcare organisations have said.
In a letter addressed to health secretary Matt Hancock and published today (20 May), 13 organisations, including Medical Protection Society and the BMA, said the ‘rapidly accessed, occupationally informed’ service on offer to veterans would also benefit NHS staff.
In March 2021, NHS England launched its ‘Op Courage’ specialist mental health service for veterans, which allows for a same-day referral for those needing urgent help.
The letter said that if the Government provides specialist services for veterans injured because of their service, it should also do so for those working in the NHS.
‘The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on an already stretched workforce with a substantial proportion of healthcare staff severely exhausted and stressed,’ it said.
It added that some workers will have been ‘unable to deliver essential care for patients’, which ‘has the potential to cause moral injury and mental health disorders’.
The letter cited a recent study that found staff working in critical care during the pandemic reported more than twice the rate of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), compared to military veterans who have recently experienced combat.
The 13 healthcare bodies also expressed concern that after the Covid-19 crisis is over, some local services may be discontinued, leaving NHS staff without the support they need.
While the organisations acknowledged efforts to address staff mental health made in the NHS People Plan – such as wellbeing hubs and investment in occupational health – they said that such initiatives must be able to provide ‘rapid access’ to expert assessment and treatment, with a ‘return-to-work’ focus.
This comes as data published by NHS Digital showed only marginal increases in the GP and non-clinical workforce during the pandemic, while a separate survey showed over a third of GPs (36%) are considering early retirement within the next 12 months, with workload pressure cited as a major factor.