COVID-19: Labour urges government to extend mental health support for nurses

It’s time to give back and protect NHS and care staff, says shadow health minister

Shadow mental health minister Rosena Allin-Khan Picture: Wikimedia

Labour has called for greater mental health support for nurses and other NHS and care staff in England.

The party claims the current help on offer is inadequate for NHS and care staff who have worked throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Suggested mental health package for care staff

Labour wants the government to implement its newly created mental health package Care for Carers, which would consist of:

  • A national helpline available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and run by paid workers.
  • Specialist assessments and referrals by mental health professionals.
  • Treatment, including psychotherapy, group therapy, telephone therapies, case management and prescriptions.
  • Follow-up and signposts to external services.

Care for Carers intended to replace the COVID-19 helpline

The existing NHS COVID-19 helpline offers emotional support and signposting, but is staffed by volunteers and only open from 7am to 11pm daily, with a 24-hour text service.

Shadow minister for mental health Rosena Allin-Khan said without additional support NHS health and care staff would continue to experience poorer mental health.

‘It is time for the government to give back to those who have sacrificed so much to keep our loved ones safe,’ she said. ‘Unless our staff are protected, they cannot continue their vital work of keeping us all safe.’

In May, a charity providing mental health support to healthcare workers revealed that it received up to 84 requests for help a day between February and April this year, compared with 45 a day in the same period in 2019.

Labour’s plan is backed by trade union GMB. The union’s national secretary Rehana Azam said: ‘Our NHS and social care workforce are the very people who have kept us safe during this pandemic. We owe it to them to make sure they get the support they need.’

Government spokesperson says current package is ‘comprehensive’

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said it has offered a comprehensive package of emotional and psychological support for staff since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, but did not comment on Labour’s proposal.

The spokesperson urged anyone who is struggling to speak to a colleague, their occupational health team or call the NHS COVID-19 helpline 0300 131 7000.

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