Labour calls for NHS mental health support as staff ‘break down’ on frontline

NHS staff are “breaking down” on the frontline tackling coronavirus and their mental health must be made a priority now rather than when the crisis is over, Labour has warned.

Shadow mental health minister and A&E doctor Rosena Allin-Khan has written to the Health Secretary Matt Hancock to seek assurances that medics are getting the support they need.

In the letter, she said the fear of spreading the virus to patients and loved ones, a lack of PPE, an increased workload and witnessing more patients die were taking their toll.

Dr Allin-Khan asked Mr Hancock to outline what provisions are in place to support the mental health of frontline staff, and called on the Government to publish real-time data on suicide numbers.

She said it was “clear” from conversations with colleagues and unions that there is a “rise in suicides, self-harm and suicidal ideation among frontline NHS and care staff”.

“It is vital that in order to tackle this, there is real-time data to understand where particular pinch points may be and where resources need to be directed,” she wrote.

Dr Allin-Khan also said the need for talking therapies is “now more important than ever”, but also urged the Government to ensure post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) support is in place once the acute stage is over.

She wrote: “Increasingly, NHS staff are breaking down – I see it first-hand working shifts.

“From a fear of spreading the virus to patients and loved ones, a lack of PPE, an increased workload owing to the number of cases and staff absences, to being redeployed to ICUs and witnessing more patients die – staff are experiencing greater pressure, which is inevitably taking its toll on their mental health.

“At this time of crisis, staff mental health must be a priority now. It simply cannot be an afterthought once the acute stage of the crisis is over.”