COVID-19 will leave ‘a mental health legacy in its wake’, warn experts

Leading clinicians have also warned that COVID-19 may lead to an increase in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among health and social care workers. 

Matt Bodell
18 May 2020
PPE Gown

The warning comes at the start of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week.

A group of leading clinicians has warned that COVID-19 will have a long-term impact on the mental health of frontline workers.

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The NHS Clinical Leaders Network (CLN) is now calling upon the country’s health service leaders to measures are put in place to support staff through the mental health crisis that is likely to follow COVID-19.

The warning comes at the start of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week.

The CLN is made up of senior healthcare experts such as; Professor Clare Gerada MBE, the former Chair of the Royal College of GPs, and the former Chief Nursing Officer for England, Professor Jane Cumming.

In a paper issued yesterday, the CLN urges the health care system to act immediately.

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A damaging toll.

Other leading clinicians have also warned that COVID-19 may lead to an increase in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among health and social care workers.

Dr Andrew Coley Chief Clinical Officer, warns: “Lessons learned from past outbreaks and evidence from around the world shows us we can expect notable increases in mental ill health and related issues for frontline workers as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“While preventing the spread of COVID-19 is still a public health priority, we’re saying that this emergency will also leave a mental health legacy in its wake, a legacy that could inflict a damaging toll on NHS and other frontline staff as well as the public at large.

“The paper we’ve published today is an urgent call to action. It makes it clear that healthcare leaders should not wait until this problem is upon us; the time to make ready is now.

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“The time for action on mental health for our frontline workers is now.”

Pandemic-related mental ill health.

The CLN paper also advises senior management, clinicians and other health and social care professionals on how they should start preparing now to ensure robust plans are in place to both prevent and deal with the threat of pandemic-related mental ill health.

“Our call to action seeks to both alert people to this vital issue and to signpost them to help and resources that are already available with our partners,” added Dr Coley.

The NHS has worked quickly with colleges, mental health charities, third sector organisations and Arm’s Length Bodies to offer a range of apps, online tools and podcasts to help bolster resilience.

Access to this is through the telephone number 0300 131 7000, or text FRONTLINE to 85258 or online Health and wellbeing support. In addition local organisations, areas and regions have created a myriad of local support offerings but these are variable in levels of coordination.

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