Mental health support scheme extended to all frontline healthcare workers in Wales

A free mental health support scheme for doctors is to be extended to every frontline healthcare worker in Wales to help NHS staff tackling the coronavirus pandemic.

Health for Health Professionals Wales (HPP), set up and run by Cardiff University, will offer support and advice to all healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, medical/healthcare students, paramedics, therapists, dentists and medical volunteers.

NHS Wales staff will be able to call a confidential helpline staffed by healthcare professionals, get access to face-to-face counselling sessions and be provided with guided self-help tools and online resources.

Senior University academics from NCMH are volunteering to support the service.

The expansion was announced by Health Minister Vaughan Gething, who also committed an additional £1m from Welsh Government to employ extra psychiatrists and medical advisers, run counselling sessions and conduct further PTSD interventions.

Professor Debbie Cohen, director of HHP and a principal investigator at NCMH, set up the service with funding from Welsh Government for the 10,000 doctors who work in Wales, eight years ago.

The emeritus professor at Cardiff University’s School of Medicine has been working in collaboration with NHS England to produce an expanded model for 60,000 healthcare staff.

“This is an extremely difficult time for healthcare workers who are on the frontline of the fight against Covid-19 so we are expanding our doctors’ support scheme so everyone is able to access the same psychological support, regardless of what role they have in the Welsh NHS and where they are in Wales,” said Professor Cohen.

“They may be feeling guilty for not being able to go into work while others are able to, or trauma from what they are seeing each day on the front line. It is absolutely vital that these workers have a confidential space where they feel they can talk to peers and can access help and support in a way that suits them.

“This virus has no boundaries so the way we provide support must have no boundaries. This is at the very heart of what we want to do.”

The scheme is also calling for retired doctors and other healthcare staff who want to help by staffing the free helpline.

“We would like to hear from healthcare staff who, for whatever reason, cannot go back to work but who want to help support the NHS during this pandemic. The offer of peer support is absolutely invaluable,” said Professor Cohen.

Professor Jon Bisson, a professor in psychiatry at Cardiff University and a principal investigator at NCMH, is one of the clinicians supporting HHP.
Professor Bisson said: “It is essential NHS staff are able to access mental health support while they deal with the current health crisis and I am pleased that my colleagues and I are able to support this initiative during this time.
“It’s fantastic the scheme is now being rolled out to all frontline healthcare workers in Wales so that we are able to help them as they continue to care for us.”

The 9am-5pm service is available by calling 0800 058 2738 or by emailing HHPCOVID19@cardiff.ac.uk.

The same email address can be used to request further information about how to volunteer to staff the free helpline.

Catrin Hopkins

Catrin is the Communications Officer for the NCMH and Cardiff University's MRC Centre.

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