NHS staff to be offered 24-hour mental health support

NHS staff will be offered 24-hour mental health support if they suffer a stressful incident at work, the Health and Social Care Secretary will say.

Matt Hancock is to unveil a raft of new measures aimed at improving the mental health of NHS staff, including better rest spaces in hospitals and a rapid referral service for counselling.

It is hoped the move will cut sickness absence rates, boost staff performance and stop workers leaving the NHS due to stress.

The latest NHS staff survey showed that fewer than a third felt their organisation took positive action towards improving their health and wellbeing.

The new measures include a dedicated mental health support service, offering staff confidential advice and support 24 hours a day.

Experts are still working on the format, but it could include a national mental health helpline for NHS staff.

The service will be staffed by qualified professionals who have had training in situations unique to the NHS.

A further support service could include peer group support or a more formal psychological assessment for staff on the front line who need help.

Also being announced are fast-tracked mental health referrals from either a GP or an occupational health clinician for NHS employees.

Improved rest spaces will be created for staff to use during and after shifts. These will have shower facilities and refreshments.

In a speech at East London NHS Foundation Trust, Mr Hancock will also announce a new role of NHS Workforce Wellbeing Guardian in every NHS organisation, whose job it will be to raise the profile of mental health and wellbeing support for staff.

Mr Hancock said: “I love the NHS and have enormous respect and admiration for the dedicated staff who make our health service what it is today.

“Working under pressure, NHS staff put themselves in some of the most challenging situations imaginable as part of their unwavering commitment to caring for us all. So they deserve unwavering support from us all.

“I’m so proud of the service NHS staff give, so the mental and physical wellbeing of the people who work in our health service must be our utmost priority.”

He said there was a need to create the “right culture of support” and to give “everyone somewhere to turn in the toughest times”.

He added: “NHS staff have been there for me, and they have been there for my family – so I’m determined to make sure we are there for them too.”

The initiatives are recommendations by Health Education England in a new report on the mental health and wellbeing of NHS staff and learners, commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care last year.

Professor Dame Donna Kinnair, acting chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Nursing staff are working in ever more pressurised environments and we know that their physical and mental health can sometimes suffer as a result, leaving them with little in the tank to care for themselves.

“The government is right to recognise this as an issue and to commit to providing support for those in difficulty.

“When it comes down to the wellbeing of both patients and staff alike there is no substitute for having the right number of nurses in the right place at the right time – that’s why we’re calling on the government to increase the supply of nurses by putting at least £1 billion into nursing higher education.

“Safe staffing is about effectively meeting the clinical needs of patients, but for staff, it also means being able to take proper rests, eat and stay hydrated.”

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