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9 April 2020

NHS launches mental health hotline for staff amid coronavirus pandemic

Frontline staff are now able to access emotional and psychological support via telephone and text message.

By Rohan Banerjee

The NHS has partnered with several charities, including Hospice UK and Samaritans, to launch a mental health support service to help comfort and advise staff during the coronavirus pandemic.

Around 1.4 million frontline workers, including doctors, nurses, paramedics and hospital porters, are working around the clock to keep people safe during a nationwide quarantine.

A phone line, open between 7am and 11pm every day, as well as a 24/7 text service, is being staffed by 1,500 specially trained volunteers, who will listen to the thoughts and concerns of NHS employees.

Since the Covid-19 outbreak began, more than 6,000 people have died in the UK after testing positive for the virus.

On top of the physical strain of working long hours against the backdrop of increased demand, the NHS is also mindful of the fact many its workers may face emotional distress from dealing so closely with patients in pain, their families and potential bereavements.

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Prerana Issar, chief people officer for NHS England, said in a statement: “We need to do everything we can to support our incredible NHS people as they care for people through this global health emergency. That’s why we have developed a range of support for all NHS staff, from one-to-one mental health support to a sympathetic voice to confide in.”

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She added: “The NHS is rightly doing everything we can for our staff, but the best thing the public can do for nurses, doctors and other NHS staff, is to protect them by staying indoors and washing your hands.”

Meanwhile, Lucy Warner, the chief executive of NHS Practitioner Health, said that supporting staff’s mental health needs to be viewed as a long-term  project, and not just during the pandemic. She explained: “Staff might not need this most badly in the immediate term, when the crisis hits, because they’ll be so busy. But three to six months down the line … staff are likely to suffer symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome.”