The Royal College of Psychiatrists joins organisations representing staff across health and social care that have come together with one voice to call for the physical and emotional wellbeing of staff to be made an unequivocal priority for the NHS and social care.
In support of the initiative Dr Adrian James, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said:
“NHS staff have been working non-stop since the start of the pandemic while also having to deal with longstanding unresolved issues such as lack of staff.
“It’s essential that we support frontline health and care staff through these difficult times so that they can keep providing the high quality care our patients deserve.
“While action is taken to address workforce shortages, we can help prevent burnout by encouraging people to talk about their mental health and seek support in the workplace when they need it.”
Read the full statement below:
One of the most important things that the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted over the past year has been that the physical and emotional wellbeing of health and care staff, must be of
equal priority to that of patients. This has not always been the case in the past for a number of reasons, including a narrow focus on performance and, sometimes, putting patients’ needs ahead of our own. Staff who are psychosocially
healthy are better able to meet the needs and preferences of patients. So, it is essential to respond to needs of staff now as we emerge from the critical stage of the pandemic and the NHS is in its most fragile state ever.
While staff are by far the biggest cost for the NHS, they are also the biggest asset; without dedicated staff and the wide range of skills they bring, the NHS simply would not exist. The safe, effective, efficient, and compassionate care that we all look to the NHS to provide is only possible if staff, both clinical and non-clinical, are physically and emotionally healthy. However, although the NHS is one of the world’s largest direct or indirect employers, it lags behind other organisations in terms of care for staff. This must change.
Health and care staff need to feel that their wellbeing and psychological health are valued by their employing organisations not solely during the height of extraordinary situations, such as the pandemic, but each and every day. This cannot be achieved by words alone; but must be achieved by actions.
We wish to create a culture at work in which staff feel safe and encouraged to speak about their experiences. Wellbeing can be affected by our experiences at work but also the conditions in which we work. We actively acknowledge the importance of our relationships, our peers at work, and the teams in which we work. Leadership and team cohesion are vitally important. Staff receive much support at home and informally from colleagues though some may also benefit from more focused psychosocial responses to our needs of, usually, a non-medical nature that include, for example, peer support.
Organisations can do much to promote informal support and to create more formal responses. This means we should take a systemic, preventative approach and not simply focus on treating people’s experiences as symptoms of personal stress. It also means actively identifying, and addressing, the wider causes of poor psychosocial wellbeing.
That approach requires a focus on psychosocial aspects of work at organisational levels such as emotional labour, workloads, team functioning, valuing diversity, absence of bullying and harassment, civility and respect, the availability and use of supervision, and kindness and compassion for staff and patients. Importantly, these considerations apply in caring for patients but also in recognising the importance of non-clinical staff to achieving safe and superb care, and through practical matters such as adequate hospital parking facilities and flexible working patterns.
We believe that organisations that commission services and employers both have crucial responsibilities to live up to in achieving the vision set out in this statement. Alongside this, we believe that change is the responsibility of everyone within health and social care and that we all have a role to play.
Prof Claire Anderson, Chair, English Pharmacy Board, Royal Pharmaceutical Society
RCPsych information and resources
- RCPsych COVID-19 guidance for clinicians: Wellbeing and support
- RCPsych COVID-19 guidance for clinicians: Supporting healthcare professionals
- College members’ webinar on wellbeing in Covid (7 May 2020)
- Prof Neil Greenberg offers advice for dealing w/ anxiety during Coronavirus (COVID-19)
- Psychiatrists Support Service (PSS)
- Top ten messages for supporting healthcare staff during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Williams, R., & Kemp, V. (2020). Caring for healthcare practitioners. BJPsych Advances
- Peer support
- What should be done to support the mental health of healthcare staff treating COVID-19 patients? | The British Journal of Psychiatry
- “Moral injury: the effect on mental health and implications for treatment” Moral injury: the effect on mental health and implications for treatment - The Lancet Psychiatry
- Occupational Medicine: An evaluation of REACTMH mental health training for UK healthcare supervisors - PubMed (nih.gov)
- Occupational Medicine: Mental health of staff working in intensive care during Covid-19 | Occupational Medicine | Oxford Academic (oup.com)
- BMJ: Mental health plan for workers of the London Nightingale Hospital: following the evidence to support staff - PubMed (nih.gov)
- Mixed signals about the mental health of the NHS workforce - The Lancet Psychiatry
- Mental health of health-care workers in the COVID-19 era | Nature Reviews Nephrology
- How might the NHS protect the mental health of health-care workers after the COVID-19 crisis? - The Lancet Psychiatry
- What healthcare leaders need to do to protect the psychological well-being of frontline staff in the COVID-19 pandemic | BMJ Leader
- COVID-19 and experiences of moral injury in front-line key workers | Occupational Medicine | Oxford Academic (oup.com)
- Managing mental health challenges faced by healthcare workers during covid-19 pandemic | The BMJ
- Principles for designing and delivering psychosocial and mental healthcare | BMJ Military Health
Practical support resources
- PHE / FutureLearn psychological first aid module
- PHE / FutureLearn psychological first aid module – children and young people
- NHS Every Mind Matters
- MindEd Children and Young people’s mental health resources