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Call for GP mental health scheme to be extended to nurses

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Calls have been made for a new mental health support scheme announced for NHS doctors to be extended to nurses and midwives.

On Friday, NHS chief executive Simon Stevens committed funding to give every GP in England access to a confidential and “non-stigmatising” service for help with issues such as anxiety, depression or addiction.

“Great news but when will we see initiatives for mental health of all staff from frontline nurses”

Fiona Hyett

A post about the scheme on social media site Twitter by health secretary Matt Hancock attracted questions about why it was only targeting doctors and not other NHS staff groups.

Christie Watson, a former nurse of 20 years turned author and campaigner, wrote: “Nurses outnumber doctors two to one and (female) nurses have highest occupational suicide rate. I completely welcome this scheme for doctors and it’s long overdue. What scheme are you urgently putting in place for nurses?”

Fiona Hyett, a deputy director of nursing in the NHS, added: “Great news but when will we see initiatives for mental health of all staff from frontline nurses, therapists, admin and the much maligned ‘management’ who try to shield front line staff from the constant barrage of initiatives.”

In addition, the Royal College of Nursing’s GP Nursing Forum wrote that providing mental health resources to one professional group “signals a very worrying trend”. Several Twitter users also called for similar support to be introduced for social care staff.

“What scheme are you urgently putting in place for nurses?”

Christie Watson

Speaking to Nursing Times, Gill Adgie, northern head at the Royal College of Midwives, said the new scheme looked like a “great initiative” but added that there was “clearly a need” to extend it to midwives and other staff. 

She added: “The RCM’s Caring for You campaign over the past couple of years has sought to highlight issues of staff wellbeing and offer solutions to issues such as the stress that can come from working extremely hard, for long hours, often without breaks or access to food and water.

“There is also clearly a need to extend this kind of support to midwives, maternity support workers and our other NHS colleagues whatever role they play in the NHS,” she said.

We will await the autumn publication of the long-term plan with a promise of similar support for other staff,” said Ms Adgie, in reference to the development of a new 10-year plan for the NHS in England.

“The entire NHS is under such strain that the daily pressures on staff are immense”

Sara Gorton

Sara Gorton, head of health at Unison, told Nursing Times: “The entire NHS is under such strain that the daily pressures on staff are immense. That’s why it’s so crucial that employers are ready to offer support when the going gets tough.

“This sensible approach could be the difference between an overworked nurse, paramedic or midwife coming back to work the next day and them having to take a significant time off when a crisis hits,” she said.

The NHS long-term plan, due to be published this autumn, is set to contain a renewed focus on the mental health of staff as well as patients.

A spokesman for NHS England said the 10-year blueprint would “consider the distinctive needs of other staff groups in the NHS”.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • This needs to be opened up to all healthcare professionals as not one group is more important than the other, of higher priority or in greater need.

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