POST (Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology)
Mental health impacts of COVID-19 on NHS staff
Media headlines have predicted an increase in mental ill health among NHS staff during the COVID-19 pandemic. This POSTnote gives an overview of the scale and quality of current evidence on the mental health and well-being of NHS staff before and during the pandemic. It also discusses how staff are supported and the options for introducing other effective interventions as the pandemic continues.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a number of challenges to the mental health and well-being of NHS staff. This group were more vulnerable to mental ill health than other occupational groups prior to the pandemic. However, it is unclear the extent to which the mental health of NHS staff has declined during the pandemic and the quality of the evidence is mixed. Further research is required to understand staff groups who may be particularly at risk and the longer-term impacts of the pandemic on NHS staff mental health. However, supporting the mental health and well-being of NHS staff during this time could maximise current and future NHS workforce capacity and performance.
Key sources of support for staff:
- Adequate resourcing of workplaces to ensure safe working practices, for example sufficient staffing levels and provision of personal protective equipment.
- Occupational risk assessments supported by Occupational Health services.
- Preparing staff for the challenges ahead through timely and effective communication and training.
- Supportive teams in which staff are encouraged to raise concerns and there is active monitoring of staff well-being.
- Training for team leaders on how to discuss mental health with their staff and informal support for staff which is easy to access and confidential. These support packages have been provided by NHS England and NHS Improvement with similar initiatives in the devolved nations.
- For the limited number of staff requiring more intensive support, access to mental health services and psychological therapies may be required. In October 2020, NHS England and NHS Improvement announced an investment of £15 million to fund rapid mental health assessment and treatment for NHS staff.
POSTnotes are based on literature reviews and interviews with a range of stakeholders and are externally peer reviewed. POST would like to thank interviewees and peer reviewers for kindly giving up their time during the preparation of this briefing, including:
- Dr Vaughan Bell, University College London
- Dr Jo Billings, University College London
- Prof Roberta Bivins, University of Warwick
- Dr Anne de Bono, Faculty of Occupational Medicine*
- Dr Hannes De Kock, University of the Highlands and Islands and NHS Highland
- Dr Mark Faghy, University of Derby
- Dame Clare Gerada, NHS Practitioner Health*
- Dr James Gilleen, University of Roehampton*
- Prof Neil Greenberg, King’s College London*
- Dr Adrian James, Royal College of Psychiatrists*
- Tom King, British Dental Association
- Dr Peter Kelly, Health and Safety Executive*
- Alex Lloyd, Royal Holloway, University of London
- Dr Sally Marlow, King’s College London
- Members of the POST Board*
- Dr Andrew Molodynski, British Medical Association*
- Alison Morton, Institute of Health Visiting*
- Nursing and Midwifery Council
- Amanda Oates, Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust*
- Stephanie Phillips, NHS 24
- Dr Alex Pollock, Glasgow Caledonian University
- Dr Melanie Rogers, University of Huddersfield*
- Royal College of Nursing
- School of Psychology, University of Sunderland
- Sophie-Odile Sauerteig, British Medical Association
- Dr Jack Saunders, University of Warwick
- Dr Christopher Sirrs, University of Warwick*
- Ravi Sharma, Royal Pharmaceutical Society*
- Dr Sharon Stevelink, King’s College London
- Dr Geraldine Strathdee, Care Quality Commission and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust*
- Dr Rachel Sumner, University of Gloucestershire
- Mr Chris Thomas, Institute for Public Policy Research
- UK Research and Innovation*
- Rob Vondy, Health and Safety Executive*
- Dr Sonya Wallbank, Association of Clinical Psychologists*
- Prof Sir Simon Wessely, King’s College London
- Prof Richard Williams, University of South Wales
*denotes people and organisations who acted as external reviewers of the briefing.
- Managing Mental Health Challenges – Scientific Article
- Psychological first aid: Dept of Health & Social Care
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