At the heart of the NHS are approximately 1.6 million NHS people committed to providing compassionate, high-quality care for patients, communities and the population. Caring for those invested in the care of others has never been more critical. Early evidence of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic suggests staff resilience is incredibly challenged. By the end of July 2020:
- An Ipsos Mori poll had found staff are reporting sleep issues, an inability to relax, feeling wound up and stressed. All are clinical indicators of anxiety.
- Concerning levels of anxiety, depression and risk of significant mental ill health were identified amongst samples of Intensive Care staff surveyed, particularly nurses.
- Over 5,600 staff had called the Samaritans main line or the NHS specific helpline.
- Nearly 2,000 had used the texting helpline service.
- Over 137,000 apps had been downloaded to improve sleep, reduce stress and promote mindfulness
- There had been a 10% increase in new registrations with Practitioner Health, a free confidential service for doctors and dentists with mental health and addiction problems. Surgeons, anaesthetists (including intensivists) and dentists appear to have been particularly affected.
These findings are serious, but not unexpected. The PAR Framework describes what might be happening for people during the Prepare, Active and Recovery (PAR) phases of the pandemic. The framework describes the common reactions and emotions people are likely to experience during the various phases of the pandemic and the different types of support they may need in response. The framework is based on evidence combined from major incident clinical expertise, associated literature and specialist taskforce and clinical advisors.
We know from the evidence that underpins this framework that the majority of staff (70-80%) will recover naturally over a period of months, with the right level of psychological and wellbeing support. There will, however, be staff who are likely go on to develop ongoing issues such as anxiety and depression that impairs their ability to do their job safely or manage other normal life activities. This is when professional mental health interventions and support are needed.
Health and Wellbeing Conversations are designed to help nurture the recovery of all of our staff and help us to guide those who need additional support to reduce the long-term impact of their distress.