Our carers need mental health support, says Labour

Labour are calling on the government to expand mental health services available to those working in the NHS

Dr Rosina Allin-Khan MP, Labour’s Shadow Mental Health Minister has called for a new package of measures to support the mental health of over 3 million people working in the health and care sector.

According to recent research from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) 42% of healthcare professionals across the UK feel that not enough has been done to protect their mental health and 60% see rectifying this as a priority.

The package proposed by Labour includes four key measures – all to be staffed by paid professionals:

  • A national hotline to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Follow up support including specialist assessments and referrals
  • Intervention and treatment including specialised PTSD support
  • Follow up and sign-posting to external services such as addiction counselling.

While some support services are in place, Labour argue that these are inadequate as they aren’t available to private sector staff doing NHS work and the helpline, while offering support, does not lead on to psychological therapies.

Dr Allin-Khan said:

“Even before the pandemic hit, the case for investing in this kind of support was clear. Coronavirus has exacerbated the existing crisis in mental health.

“Many NHS and social care staff have been scared of going to work, and they have lost patients and colleagues. It has been heartbreaking to witness the toll this virus has taken on staff mental health.

“Current support is not good enough, and without a tailored, fast-tracked service for staff who have faced death and despair every day for over three months, our frontline heroes will continue to be failed.

“We need to care for our carers. It is time for the Government to give back to those who have sacrificed so much to keep our loved ones safe. Unless our staff are protected, they cannot continue their vital work of keeping us all safe.”

In response to Labour’s announcement, Chris Thomas, lead author of Care Fit for Carers and IPPR Health Fellow, said:

“Health and care heroes have shown remarkable bravery in responding to Covid-19. In the country’s hour of need, in the face of significant risk, they stepped up in remarkable fashion”

“This selflessness has taken a brutal impact on their mental health. IPPR research shows that, by the peak of the outbreak in April, half of healthcare staff had seen their mental health deteriorate.

“Healthcare workers can only look after our health if we look after theirs. It’s time to give them the bespoke support they desperately need”

Christina McAnea, Assistant General Secretary of Unison, who have over 1.3 million members working in public services said:

“Health and care staff have been working under huge pressures over the past few months, while most of us have been safe at home.

“Fears about falling ill, passing the virus on to loved ones or those they care for, and working without adequate safety kit have only added to the stress.

“Even before the pandemic hit, overworked staff were suffering with their mental health. The Covid crisis will only have heightened these problems. 

“Health and care workers, who’ve been up against it since March, need time off to recharge their batteries and support to help them cope with what they’ve been through. 

“A one-size-fits-all approach of occupational health assistance won’t work. Support must be much more tailored to suit individual needs than is currently the case.

“The government needs to get much better at looking after all those who do so much to look after all of us.”

Emma Burnell is a freelance journalist, editor and communications consultant. 

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