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Create robust post-trauma and mental health support for staff, report advises

Health Education England commission recommends 33 improvements

Health Education England commission recommends 33 improvements


Picture: iStock

Nurses in England could soon have access to a ‘Samaritans-style’ mental health support service, including post-trauma counselling, according to a new report.

Following a year-long review of mental well-being among NHS staff, Health Education England (HEE) has published 33 recommendations that aim to improve mental health and post-trauma support for NHS staff and students.

Extensive research

The review commission, led by HEE chair Keith Pearson, heard from the family members of NHS staff and students who had taken their own lives, as well as employers, regulators, educators and mental health leaders.

    The recommendations include:

    • Post-trauma support – which may include peer support and trauma counselling.
    • Access to a 24/7 confidential mental health support service – emulating the rail industry and its comprehesive suicide prevention programme.
    • An ‘NHS for the NHS’ – rapid prioritised mental health referrals for staff.
    • Suitable, accessible, psychologically safe, confidential spaces to rest, socialise, and share and discuss experiences for all staff, as well as improved rest spaces for on-call staff that are secure, with shower facilities.
    • An NHS Workforce Well-being Guardian in every organisation to champion mental health and well-being support for staff.

    Legacy of extreme trauma

    The HEE NHS Staff and Learners’ Mental Wellbeing Commission report acknowledges that the ‘emotional labour’ experienced by staff is often taken for granted by the NHS.

    It states: ‘Many of our staff, often young staff, see the horrors of extreme trauma, they see the aftermath of major road traffic accidents, suicide, and they see children in distress or dying, and they help families cope with the loss of a loved one.

    ‘They see the effects of deprivation and many see what they described to us as "life in the raw". These memories, like ghosts from the past, may return at unexpected times.’

    HEE chief executive Ian Cumming said: ‘We must do better for those in the caring professions. And we must care better for those studying to be professionals. This commission will make that happen.’

    Safe staffing

    RCN general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said: ‘When it comes to the well-being of patients and staff, there is no substitute for having the right number of nurses in the right place at the right time.

    ‘That’s why we’re calling on the government to increase the supply of nurses by putting at least £1 billion into nursing higher education.

    ‘Safe staffing is about meeting the clinical needs of patients, but for staff it also means being able to take proper rests, eat and stay hydrated.’

    Somewhere to turn

    Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said the report would help to create ‘the right culture of support, giving everyone somewhere to turn in the toughest times’.

    The recommendations will be considered as part of the forthcoming NHS workforce plan, which is due to be published later this year. 


    Need help?

    • Call Samaritans on 116 123
    • Contact the RCN’s confidential counselling service on 0345 772 6100

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