Supporting mental health and wellbeing of our healthcare workers
Since February, staff at Guy’s and St Thomas’ have worked tirelessly to care for our community during the coronavirus pandemic, often isolating from their own families to protect them. We know that their welfare is key to delivering the best possible care for patients, which is why a key focus of support during the coronavirus pandemic has been on how to better support their physical and mental wellbeing.
Over the last six months, the charity expanded its support for the hospitals’ wellbeing programme, Showing We Care About You, including funding new wellbeing zones and additional support for colleagues who have experienced bereavement during the pandemic.
Research shows that up to half of all healthcare workers will experience symptoms of mental illness during a pandemic. With the most acute symptoms sometimes presenting up to three years later, it’s important to continue to support the psychological wellbeing of staff as they begin to recover from the last six months. In doing so, it will reduce the likelihood of them developing longer-term mental health conditions.
To make sure this challenge is met, a comprehensive psychological and spiritual support package is being funded. Led by Dr Neil Rees, Guy’s and St Thomas’ lead psychologist for staff health and wellbeing and Revd Mia Hilborn, head of spiritual health care, the programme will focus on those of greatest risk of developing a mental health condition.
Dr Rees said: “NHS staff are disproportionately affected by stress, anxiety and depression. Whilst many healthcare workers managed the stress and challenge of working through the COVID-19 pandemic with support from families and loved ones, some colleagues will have persistent psychological difficulties.”
Revd Hilborn explains: “Nobody has experienced a time like this before, and many colleagues will feel the ground has shifted underneath them. This is why spiritual care is important to remind colleagues how valuable they are to the communities they care for.”
Caring for the hospitals’ diverse community
The package of support has been designed to meet the needs of the Guy’s and St Thomas’ diverse workforce. The services offered will be accessible to all colleagues – this includes specific plans and resources for staff working in the facilities team and those working at community sites across south London.
“The programme of support we are delivering in partnership with Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity will ensure all staff – regardless of their role, background or seniority – can reconnect with their psychological resources, confidence and values after exposure to highly challenging situations,” continued Dr Neil Rees.
We know that Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) healthcare workers, and those on lower incomes are disproportionately affected by both higher rates of mortality from COVID-19, and impact on their psychological wellbeing.
To help address this, a BAME Access Psychologist will be available to staff from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic background. This has been made possible with funding from NHS Charities Together through the generous donations from the public to their COVID-19 appeal.
The service provided by the BAME Access Psychologist will be co-created with BAME colleagues to deliver accessible and culturally relevant approaches to supporting staff wellbeing. It will not replace but instead support and strengthen the other elements of the psychological and spiritual support programme.
With your ongoing help, we will continue to support the mental health and wellbeing of staff through the coronavirus pandemic, and beyond.
We will soon be launching a Staff Wellbeing Appeal. Let us know if you want to be kept informed about this appeal and other areas of our work.
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