The Liberal Democrats are today calling on the Government to ramp up mental health support for health and care staff to ensure “world-class” support for those tackling the virus head-on.
Highlighting the “deep scar” coronavirus will leave on health and care staff in Bristol, the party have put forward a package of mental health measures designed for rapid roll-out across the NHS and care sectors, including:
- 24/7 access to mental health support for health and social care workers, through a dedicated helpline
- Guarantees that health and care staff will no longer be penalised for time off due to mental or physical ill-health by scrapping the Bradford scoring system and other HR practices that can create a culture of presenteeism
- Introduce an ‘occupational health passport’ so workers do not have to relive mental health traumas if or when they change jobs
- Additional training to ensure there are mental health first-aiders in every health and care workforce
- Steps to standardise the quality and service offer to ensure that every health and social care worker can access the same, high standard of mental care support regardless of the region in which they are based
- The roll-out of these services must be for all staff, whether or not they are directly involved in patient treatment, in recognition of the wide scale of the impact of the COVID-19 across all teams. If adopted, the proposals will improve access to mental health support for all those working in health and care settings.
The proposals follow news that a care home in Clifton has seen one-third of its residents die due to coronavirus. NHS trusts in Bristol have also seen deaths over the crisis period.
James Cox, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Bristol West and Director of Zero Suicide Bristol, said:
"COVID-19 will leave a deep scar on our health and social care workforce, who have gone above and beyond to fight this virus. In Bristol, our health and care staff will have lost colleagues, endured illness or faced significant trauma.
"The significant mental health impacts will long outlast the virus and we need to act now to ensure that nobody slips through the net as the scale of the mental health impact of this crisis emerges.
"Our proposals include a mental health support hotline, open to staff 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our hospitals and care services are staffed around the clock, so the support services staff need should be too. In addition, we propose measures to ensure NHS and care staff are not penalised for days off due to ill health.
"The mental health response to this crisis in Bristol and across the country should be nothing short of world-class. That means investing now to prepare for the challenges ahead. The clap for carers is not just a gesture - people want to see those on the frontline supported right through this crisis and beyond. Ministers must get on top of the mental health impact of COVID-19 by backing these measures to support our vital NHS and care staff when they need it most."