Health Secretary says sorry about lack of support for NHS workers

The Health Secretary has apologised to the families of NHS workers let down by a lack of support.

Matt Hancock said that across the health service “we don’t do enough to care for our carers”, as he vowed to improve working conditions for staff.

A raft of proposals were unveiled on Wednesday, including 24-hour mental health support for those who suffer a stressful incident at work and better rest spaces in hospitals.

The initiatives are recommendations outlined by Health Education England in a new report on the mental health and wellbeing of NHS staff and learners and are expected to be rolled out across the country.

Mr Hancock, addressing the report launch in east London, said he had been struck by the loss of Dr Lauren Phillips, whose body has never been found after she failed to turn up to work at Southmead Hospital in Bristol.

Her father said the NHS “succeeded in sapping” her strength and “was not there” to give her “the support she needed to stay alive”, the audience heard.

Mr Hancock said: “He’s right. And I want to apologise. As Secretary of State, and on behalf of the entire leadership of the NHS, I’m sorry.

“I want to say sorry to Lauren’s parents, and the families of every other member of the NHS family, who we didn’t do enough to help when they needed us most.

“We can never know all the reasons why someone decides to take their own life. But, hand on heart, it’s impossible to say we did enough to care for Lauren.

“Across the NHS, we don’t do enough to care for our carers and for that I am sorry.”

Mr Hancock said he welcomed the report recommendations, and was committed to overhauling the working culture within the NHS.

A rapid referral service for counselling, better shower and refreshment facilities and a new role of NHS Workforce Wellbeing Guardian in every hospital are among the measures also included in a proposed package of support.

The Wellbeing Guardian would be responsible for raising the profile of mental health and wellbeing support for staff.

“Throughout the NHS we must act,” Mr Hancock said.

“And I promise you, I will do all I can to pass this great British institution on to future generations in a better condition than I found it.

“And the only way we can do that is by caring better for our carers.”

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

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

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