The impact of Covid
As Covid-19 spread around the world, our NHS was significantly impacted, with non-essential and outpatient work postponed. In Barts Health NHS Trust, like other hospitals across the UK, thousands of staff were redeployed, often without notice and without any choice.
For the 24,000 staff and contractors at Barts Health, stress was compounded by a feeling of vulnerability as they adopted new roles and new processes that were out of their previous area of expertise, like donning PPE. Early in the pandemic, staff began to show fatigue, low mood, anxiety, moral injury and even signs of healthcare worker post traumatic stress disorder.
The Trust’s clinical psychologists were quickly redeployed from patient-facing services to support staff and contractors. A staff support helpline and temporary wellbeing hubs for frontline colleagues were set up at all hospitals. But it became clear that long–term support was going to be needed to support staff through the multiple waves of the pandemic and beyond.
A dedicated psychologist for each hospital
Thanks to those who gave to our Covid-19 Emergency Appeal, we awarded £1million to establish the #TeamBartsHealth Psychological Support Service for Barts Health staff. Each of the five hospitals in the Trust – St Bartholomew’s, The Royal London, Mile End, Newham and Whipps Cross now have access to a dedicated psychologist.
The service was set up with the aim of building resilience and ensuring staff feel cared for and listened to, which leads to improved patient experience. The most common themes have been low mood, anxiety, trauma, wellbeing, work-life balance, grief and loss. Recently, several staff have accessed the service after being affected by the war in Ukraine.
So far, over 6500 staff have been seen by the service, which includes both group and individual sessions – many of them hosted in the private rooms in the permanent wellbeing hubs that we funded at each hospital. 98% of users surveyed felt they were supported and 97% would recommend the service to colleagues.
Chanelle, a Paediatric Staff Nurse, says: “I was redeployed to Adult Critical Care early in the pandemic. The patients kept coming and coming and coming and I disconnected from death as a way of dealing with it. If I hadn’t looked for help, I worried that I would have had a breakdown and I wouldn’t have stayed in nursing. I felt that if I’d had a day off then I wouldn’t have ever gone back. I felt worried that something was going to push me over the edge. I’d always just ‘put up and shut up’ but at this point I had to admit I was suffering.
“Then I saw an ad on the Weshare staff intranet for the new Psychological Support Service and I asked for a session to meet with a psychologist face-to-face. She understood what I’d been through and didn’t have the shocked look on her face that so many other people did. I needed that level of understanding. I had three sessions and felt I could talk freely with her. The sessions gave me space to open up and be honest. It massively changed the way I saw things, I never wanted to talk about my feelings before. But after speaking with her I began speaking to colleagues and it was refreshing to see that everyone was experiencing the same things as me. Since then, I’ve been encouraging my colleagues to tap into the sessions too -– the psychologists have a real level of expertise.”
Thank you to the donors
Psychologist, Dr Mark Winwood, says: “To the donors who made this possible, I’d like to say a huge, huge thank you for focusing your support on employee wellbeing. Individuals who feel valued and supported and feel that they have colleagues and a system that’s looking after them is so important. And there’s compelling evidence to suggest that supported individuals and teams provide better patient care and what we see from that are improved health outcomes. We cannot underestimate how important this is. So, thank you.”
The public’s response to the Covid crisis was incredible, and meant that we could provide food and essentials rapidly. But we are especially proud that we’re able to offer long-term support for NHS staff who have sacrificed so much. We would like to say a huge thank you to every person who donated to our Covid-19 appeal and a special thank you to Capula Investment Management.