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Jamie Hailstone is a freelance journalist and author, who has also contributed to numerous national business titles including Utility Week, the Municipal Journal, Environment Journal and consumer titles such as Classic Rock.

February 21, 2019

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Mental Health

Mental health in the NHS: Health Secretary announces more support for NHS staff

All NHS staff are to be offered post-trauma support and 24/7 mental health services, the Health Secretary has announced.

NHS - Accident Emergency DepartmentSpeaking at an event in London to unveil the new plans, Matt Hancock said the mental and physical wellbeing of NHS staff “must be our utmost priority”.

He pledged to adopt the plans, which have been put forward in a new report by Health Education England, which was commissioned by the Department of Health.

The report’s recommendations include post-incident support for NHS frontline staff, which could include peer group support or a more formal psychological assessment.

It also calls for an NHS Workforce Wellbeing Guardian in every NHS Trust, who would be responsible for championing mental health and wellbeing support.

Stressful incident

The report goes on to recommend the creation of a dedicated mental health support service, to give staff confidential advice and support 24 hours a day if they’ve faced a stressful incident at work.

According to the report, this would be staffed by qualified professionals whose training is tailored to understand the specific circumstances of clinical life.

On top of this, it recommends fast-tracked mental health referrals for NHS employees if requested as a priority from either a GP or an occupational health clinician.

“It is vital that staff feel they are supported and that employers have the right procedures in place to offer all the help that may be needed. The mental wellbeing of staff contributes positively to patient care so we must get it right,” said Health Education England Chief Executive, Professor Ian Cumming.

“As a caring and compassionate organisation, the NHS attracts staff with these values, but it must be recognised that in giving care you also absorb some of the concerns and issues of the people that you are caring for. We must do better for those in the caring professions. And we must care better for those studying to be professionals. This Commission will make that happen.”

In January, official figures showed ambulance paramedics in England lost more than 50,000 working days to stress last year.

The figures released by NHS Data showed 50,031 working days were lost due to stress across all the ambulance trusts, compared to a total of 240,589 working days lost for all reasons.

Responding to the new report, Paul Jenkins, chair of the Mental Health Network, which is part of the NHS Confederation, said it “shines a welcome light” and makes sound recommendations on looking after the mental wellbeing of NHS staff.

“We particularly welcome the announcement of the Wellbeing Guardians who will champion staff wellbeing at board level,” said Mr Jenkins.

“We also welcome the focus on system leadership to improve staff psychological well-being by placing a strong focus for improvement at Board level.”

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