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Pandemic continues to take its toll on nurses’ mental health – survey

Quarter of staff reported severe depression, but uptake of psychological support remains low


Picture: iStock

One in four nurses and midwives are reporting severe or extremely severe depression, anxiety or stress as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, a survey suggests.

Around 4,000 nurses and midwives in the UK took part in the second of a three-survey study exploring the impact of COVID-19 on the workforce.

Poor uptake of services to improve mental health

A total of 24% of respondents reported severe or extremely severe depression, anxiety or stress.

However, few respondents said they have accessed services to support their health and psychological well-being.

Preliminary results from the second Impact of COVID-19 on the Nursing and Midwifery workforce (ICON) survey, completed by 4,063 nurses and midwives between 28 April and 12 May, also show:

  • 88% remain worried about risks to family members due to their clinical role during the COVID-19 pandemic. Respondents also said they were worried about risks to their own health.
  • Only 12% reported using well-being apps such as Unmind and Headspace, which are currently offering free access to NHS staff. Just 1% had accessed Silvercloud, an online course to help manage stress, anxiety and depression.
  • Less than 1 in 5 (17%) who reported having access to time-out rooms had used them.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) availability since the first survey in early April appears to have improved, but 40% reported that the correct PPE was not always available.

The ICON study, led by the Royal College of Nursing Research Society, is a collaboration between academics and NHS staff from across the UK, including King’s College London, University of Warwick and Cardiff University.

The study is being undertaken at three time-points: prior to the COVID-19 peak, during the peak, and in the recovery period following COVID-19.

Nursing workforce ‘remains under pressure’

RCN chair of nursing research Daniel Kelly said: ‘With almost double the number of respondents compared with the first survey, these results demonstrate that the nursing and midwifery workforce remains under pressure, with few accessing formal psychological support services.

‘We also know that nurses continue to worry about the risks to their families, and some still do not have access to adequate supplies of PPE.

‘As the mental well-being of colleagues is at risk in this situation, it is important to understand what forms of support are needed that colleagues are more likely to access.’


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