An open letter to Matt Hancock: Frontline Covid-19 staff need ‘Psychological First Aid’ now

SNP MP Lisa Cameron is leading calls for proper psychological support for frontline staff.Here she sets out the proposals to Matt Hancock.

The unprecedented Covid-19 crisis has and will continue to cause grave challenges for those staff working in our NHS, Social Care and other frontline settlings.

As a former NHS Consultant Clinical Psychologist, I expect that staff will face huge physical demands, in terms of long hours, intense work and significant anxieties around the real risk of infection for themselves and their families.  

This is in addition to the enormous psychological demands of managing trauma and psychological distress, working day in day out on the frontline of a pandemic. 

As this crisis continues, we must hold the physical and psychological needs of frontline staff in mind and to value both needs with parity.

I welcome the initial news from the UK government that there will be a plan to support the psychological wellbeing of our NHS staff, via a mental health hotline.  

But the British Psychological Society (BPS) has issued more comprehensive guidance for health and social care leaders and managers, on proactive steps to protect the psychological wellbeing of healthcare staff during and after the coronavirus outbreak.

In line with this guidance, cross-party MPs, Peers and I are calling for the implementation of a comprehensive plan for NHS staff, Social Care staff and all frontline staff coping with trauma. 

We want to see:

1. Staff’s basic physical and mental health needs being supported – with adequate PPE, access to food and drink, protected places to rest and recharge – within their organisations  

2. At a management level, we need to see visible, inspiring organizational leadership supported by government. That involves properly looking after staff teams, supplying information, and demonstrating compassion wherever issues arise 

3. At the individual level, we need to foster ‘peer support’, access to Psychological First Aid, and of course the ability to escalate urgently to formal psychological interventions, where required

This situation is unprecedented, and it is indeed okay to not be okay. 

Staff experiencing symptoms of stress is normal.  Psychological First Aid recognises this and helps remind them of the importance of looking after their physical and mental wellbeing.  It maintains morale and builds resilience.

Over the coming months we expect psychological needs to grow significantly as people deal with anxiety, loss, trauma and burnout.  

The ability for frontline staff to access psychological interventions timely and with priority where they need it will be key.

What we do now, the support we offer and how we manage this crisis, will have significant implications for the NHS & social care its workforce, that of frontline services and the general public for years to come.  

That’s why this week I wrote an open letter to Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock, in my capacity as Chair of both the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Health and the All-Party Parliamentary Psychology Group.

The letter calls for proper mental health care involving ‘Psychological First Aid’ for frontline staff dealing with trauma across the UK amid the coronavirus crisis.

It has received significant cross-party support, gathering over 70 signatures of cross-party MPs and Peers in under 24 hours. 

We call on government to do everything possible to support our incredible NHS, Social Care and frontline staff as they care for people through this global health emergency. 

If we do not acknowledge and support them at this critical time, the health and social welfare ramifications will be huge.

As the British Psychological Society said: “We need workers to be mentally prepared for what is happening.  It is vital that their psychological needs, at organisational, managerial and individual levels are met now, so that they can cope in the weeks to come.  

“Anything less will be a disservice to those individuals giving their all for the rest of us”.

Read the open letter from over 70 parliamentarians here.

Dr Lisa Cameron a Scottish National Party MP and a former consultant clinical psychologist.

Full list of signatories: Alistair Carmichael MP, Angus McNeil MP, Baroness Benjamin Baroness Boycott Baroness Brinton Baroness Burt of Solihull Baroness Cox Baroness Harris of Richmond Baroness Jolly Baroness Kidron Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon Baroness Lister of Burtersett CBE Baroness Massey of Darwen Baroness Meacher Baroness Scott of Needham Market Baroness Thomas of Winchester Baroness Tonge Baroness Tyler of Enfield Baroness Uddin Baroness Browning Ben Lake MP, Caroline Lucas MP, Chi Onwurah MP, Daisy Cooper MP, Douglas Chapman MP, Duke of Montrose Sir Edward Davey MP, Gill Furniss MP, Hywel Williams MP, Ian Paisley Jr MP, Jamie Stone MP, Janet Daby MP, Julie Elliot MP, Kate Hollern MP, Lord Addington Lord Alderdice Lord Balfe Lord Berkeley The Rt Hon. Lord Bradley Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe The Rt Hon. Lord Dholakia Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick Lord Hendy Lord Judd Lord Kennedy of Southwark The Rt Hon. Lord Lansley CBE Lord Loomba CBE Lord Oates Lord Ranger CBE Lord Rennard MBE Lord Russell of Liverpool Lord Stunell OBE Lord Truscott The Rt Hon. Lord Tyler Mary Glindon MP, Mike Amesbury MP, Mike Hill MP, Mohammad Yasin MP, Munira Wilson MP, Philippa Whitford MP, Rachel Hopkins MP, Rachel Maskell MP, Rosie Cooper MP, Rt Hon. Lord Wills of North Swindon and Woodside Park Seema Malhotra MP, Stephanie McGuinness MP, Virendra Sharma MP, Wera Hobhouse MP.

As you’re here, we have something to ask you. What we do here to deliver real news is more important than ever. But there’s a problem: we need readers like you to chip in to help us survive. We deliver progressive, independent media, that challenges the right’s hateful rhetoric. Together we can find the stories that get lost.

We’re not bankrolled by billionaire donors, but rely on readers chipping in whatever they can afford to protect our independence. What we do isn’t free, and we run on a shoestring. Can you help by chipping in as little as £1 a week to help us survive? Whatever you can donate, we’re so grateful - and we will ensure your money goes as far as possible to deliver hard-hitting news.

Comments are closed.