Caring for our carers: a focus on our mental health funding

29 Jul 2020

Although the initial peak of COVID-19 has passed, its impact is still being felt by NHS staff. We’re committed to supporting the workers in our five hospitals, which is why we’ve announced a £3m package of long-term wellbeing support, with £1m dedicated to mental health support.

Hospital staff are at risk of stress, anxiety and other mental health problems brought on by the COVID-19 crisis, and many are nervously anticipating a second wave and wondering how they will cope.

"The impact of COVID has placed unparalleled pressures on NHS staff," says Rachel Simkiss, the Consultant Clinical Psychologist leading the project. "Our colleagues have done an amazing job saving lives and aiding patients’ recovery but they have seen a lot of things and they are feeling exhausted." 

Issy is a Respiratory Physiotherapist working on the intensive care unit at St Bartholomew’s Hospital

“I went into full-on robot mode during the peak, nothing really registered. I felt incredibly numb, emotionally drained, and what can only be described as burnt out. I would come home from work and cry and think ‘I don’t think I can do this anymore’. My fiancée was horrified and encouraged me to seek help. My biggest worry is now a second peak.

"I’m still feeling the effects of the first one, and how drained it’s left me. We feel emotionally and physically tired. I worry I wouldn’t cope with a second peak as well, I think it would be more challenging. The public haven’t seen it in the same way we have, I don’t think they see the severity of it. That worries me, and people’s approach to social distancing. I think this funding is fantastic – it’s amazing that we’re recognizing how much that psychological support is really vital

Funke (photographed above by Hassan Akkad) works as a Senior Radiographer at Newham Hospital

“I absolutely love my job and a big part of that is working with some fantastic colleagues in a really close knit team. But COVID placed an enormous amount of pressure on everyone in the hospital. And apart from the obvious things, like the huge rise in the number of seriously ill patients,  during the pandemic we had to maintain social distance and our shift patterns changed which meant it was much harder to give emotional support to one another.

"I’m usually a very positive person, but during the worst months I found myself feeling withdrawn.  I struggled to eat and sleep properly. if it hits again we have the kit, we have the PPE, but do we have the heart to do it again? I don’t know. I’d like to say thank you to those who donated. The support people are going to get, the new spaces, this will be little drops which will end up making a mighty ocean and it will help.” 

  

£1m mental health programme

With our £1million funding for mental health, we aim to support staff in dealing with the after-effects of the pandemic and preparing them for what lies ahead.

Clinical psychologists be on hand to offer mental health first aid, counselling, and wellbeing sessions across our five hospitals. Their support will not be solely crisis-oriented, but will also focus on building staff wellbeing and resilience to prevent mental ill health from surfacing in the future.

As well as support for individuals, there will be an emphasis on the role of teams for providing support, an element that has been developed from the military and from The Royal London Hospital’s experience of responding to major trauma incidents.

Generous donors

The £1.2million funding for this programme was generously donated to our emergency COVID-19 appeal by Capula Investment Management.

A further £2million will fund an extensive refurbishment scheme for staff areas in the hospitals, including staff rooms, on-call overnight rooms and cycle storage.

We are so grateful for all the donations to our emergency COVID-19 appeal which have made this project possible. Although the appeal is now closed, our commitment to supporting Barts Health doesn't end here – we’ll continue to be there for our hospitals through COVID-19 and beyond.

Barts Health NHS staff can access the Trust’s existing psychological support services by calling 0771 309 9178.

More news

£3m for staff wellbeing in our hospitals

We’re delighted to announce an unprecedented £3m package of long-term support for the incredible staff at Barts Health NHS Trust who continue to go the extra mile to tackle COVID-19.

Breaking down COVID-19 for our youngest patients

Our funding has been used for projects large and small through the pandemic.  In the Play Team, staff have used our funds to create new leaflets that explain the virus in a child-friendly way.