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Nurses cannot routinely use mental health support service – despite claim they could

Government backtracks on health secretary Matt Hancock’s Twitter statement
Distressed woman on the phone

Government backtracks on health secretary Matt Hancocks Twitter statement

The government has confirmed that a mental health support service for NHS doctors and dentists in England will not be routinely available to nurses despite the health secretary tweeting that it would.

The NHS Practitioner Health service was set up last year to provide confidential support for NHS doctors in London if they felt they were struggling with their mental health. This service has now been expanded and is available across England for NHS dentists as well as doctors.

Conflicting information from the government

Health secretary Matt Hancock claimed on social media that the expanded service would also support nurses and other NHS staff.

Yes. It has been designed for doctors but will also support nurses and all other staff in the NHS. I want

Government backtracks on health secretary Matt Hancock’s Twitter statement

Picture: iStock

The government has confirmed that a mental health support service for NHS doctors and dentists in England will not be routinely available to nurses – despite the health secretary tweeting that it would. 

The NHS Practitioner Health service was set up last year to provide confidential support for NHS doctors in London if they felt they were struggling with their mental health. This service has now been expanded and is available across England for NHS dentists as well as doctors. 

Conflicting information from the government

Health secretary Matt Hancock claimed on social media that the expanded service would also support nurses and other NHS staff.

However, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) subsequently clarified that this was not the case. 

Encouraging nurses to seek help

An DHSC spokesperson said: ‘Nurses and all other NHS staff are encouraged to access mental health services local to them, but can contact NHS Practitioner Health if they feel they have nowhere to turn and the service will aim to signpost them to the most appropriate help.

'We want all staff to feel supported at work, and the upcoming NHS People Plan will put the well-being of all employees across the health service at the heart of ensuring the NHS is a great place to work.’

Last year, the NHS Practitioner Health programme's medical director Clare Gerada told Nursing Standard that her service was not commissioned to support nurses and non-clinical staff and had had to turn away nurses, except about a dozen that had been seen ‘by special arrangement’.

In February this year, following a year-long review of mental well-being among NHS staff, Health Education England recommended improved mental health and post-trauma support for NHS staff and students. This included access to a ‘Samaritans-style’ mental health support service, but this has so far not been provided for nursing staff.


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