One in five health and care workers suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after the pandemic struck last year, a new study suggests.
Almost three in five health and social care workers suffered a mental health problem during the first lockdown, figures show.
Some 58% of workers in these sectors were deemed to have a mental health disorder between May 27 and July 23 last year.
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And 22% met the criteria for PTSD, according to the study led by researchers from UCL and the University of Haifa, Israel.
Figures from the Frontline Covid study, published in the European Journal of Psychotraumatology, examined data on 1,194 health and social care workers from hospitals, nursing or care homes and other community settings across the UK.
The researchers found that 47% had clinically significant anxiety and 47% had depression.
Concerns raised by staff included:
– Fears about infecting others with Covid.
– Being unable to talk with their managers about how they were coping.
– Feeling stigmatised about their role.
– Concern over not having had reliable access to personal protective equipment (PPE).
Researchers said that staff who were deemed to be suffering from PTSD were more likely to have been redeployed to other teams.
They were also more likely to have had Covid-19 themselves.
Lead author Dr Talya Greene said: “Our study shows that more than half of health and social care staff surveyed met criteria for a mental disorder following the first wave of Covid-19 in the UK.
“Importantly, we found that rates of distress were high, not only among doctors and nurses, but across a wide range of health and social care roles, such as allied health professionals, ambulance workers, hospital porters, pharmacists and care home staff.
“Let’s be clear: we may be on the verge of a mental health crisis across the health and social care sector.
“So we need to make sure that specialist help is offered and accessible across all the different roles and settings.
“It is important that this support is planned for the long term. Our findings highlight the urgency for immediate long-term funding for specialist mental health services for health and social care workers.”
Commenting on the study, Dr Adrian James, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “Frontline health and care workers could be experiencing trauma as a result of seeing extraordinary numbers of people dying or struggling to cope with the virus.
“Without the right psychological support in place, trauma can lead to debilitating mental health problems.
“To prevent a mental health crisis in the NHS and social care sector it’s absolutely vital that all staff are able to access the right support when they need it, during and after this pandemic.”
Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Covid has inflicted deep mental scars on NHS and care staff.
“They’ve paid an unimaginable price for caring for the nation throughout this pandemic.
“High vacancy rates in health and social care have made the situation worse, Staff have been worked to the bone because of unfilled jobs.
“This threatens the ability of the NHS and social care to look after people properly.
“The Government must now help heal the damage through guaranteed access to specialist support. A decent pay increase is also essential to raise morale and recruitment.”