Mental health toll on NHS workers in lockdown revealed as first figures show staff absence rose by 165,000 days

“They have had leave cancelled, and their training has been put on hold. Many have worked more intense rotas. If this goes on for much longer without proper respite, I have real concerns about the impact on staff across the NHS.”

Beyond the pandemic, unions have also pointed towards staff shortages and pay conditions as a major driver behind the increase in mental health sickness.

“It has absolutely coincided with more pressure on health services and more pressure on nursing staff, who have been asked to deliver a really high standard of care with less resources and more patients,” said Adams.

“You can’t underestimate the pressure of feeling like you can’t care for people properly. That is the worst feeling – when you don’t have the time to do what you need for someone. That has played into it.”

Dr David Wrigley, deputy chair of the British Medical Association, echoed these claims.

“Even before Covid-19, NHS workers struggled to cope with acute staff shortages, long hours and real-terms decreases in income,” he told The Telegraph

“Inevitably, the pandemic has exacerbated the effects of these entrenched problems while presenting additional pressures – not least the risks to personal safety and substantially increased working hours that many doctors have faced. Sadly many doctors have also died.”

“Doctors should never feel obliged to conceal mental health issues or to attend work when unwell. Doctors often feel guilty when off work due to illness and this has to change. To tackle the stigma that still remains, employers must build a more supportive culture for the workforce and normalise conversations about mental health.”   

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Supporting the mental health and wellbeing of our staff is a top priority, and this week we published the NHS People Plan to address new pandemic challenges and improve physical and mental support for staff.

“The NHS has increased its health and wellbeing support for staff and a range of services are available, including a mental health hotline, practical support, financial advice, and specialist bereavement and psychological support.

“We would urge anyone struggling to come forward and speak to a colleague, their occupational health team, or to call the helpline so that they can get the help they need.”

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