'The toughest 12 months of our careers': How mental health services face the challenge of Covid

The pandemic has taken its toll on the country's mental health, with anxiety, isolation, health worries and job insecurity on the rise.

But what impact is that having on our mental health hospitals?

For our series of special reports looking at Care after Covid, ITV Granada Reports was granted access to Clock View Hospital in Liverpool, run by Mersey Care NHS Trust.

They were keen to let us in - to show how mental health care has had to quickly adapt to the new world, and also to show us how busy they are.

Everywhere you look in the hospital are signs of how they have had to do things differently.

The cafe, which was run by patients, would usually be full of people - families and other visitors, people socialising - it now stands empty. Visitors have to be kept away to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

But one thing the pandemic has not changed, is the need for help. In fact - it is greater than ever. There are many more first-time patients reporting episodes of psychosis or other severe distress - creating a greater demand for beds. 

Consultant from Mersey Care NHS Trust Credit: ITV News

Dr Declan Hyland, a consultant in General Adult Psychiatry, says the pandemic has impacted significantly on the mental health of his patients - with more and more going into crisis as a result.

It is not only inpatient services seeing a surge in demand.

The Trust also runs a crisis helpline, where people can call for help without having to go to A+E. Demand is still exceptionally high - with the team taking around 2,000 calls a month.

The service was not even meant to launch until April 2021, but they have had to bring it forwards because of the pandemic.

New crisis line receiving 2000 calls a month Credit: ITV News

Denise Carey, Operational Manager, 24/7 Urgent Care team, says: "It is an extremely busy line.

"This service is so important because if you wanted to access a mental health service previously, you would have to attend an Accident and Emergency department, and for people suffering a significant mental health problem, those environments are sometimes not conducive."We're hearing from people that have never accessed mental health services before.

"We're hearing about people who can't have access to their loved ones. They're sitting at home, they're isolated... we've had an increase in students calling.

"For the team, it's been extremely difficult- outside of work they have their own worries, their own families that they have to care for.

"It's been the most challenging 12 months of any of our careers really.

"We don't see the demand letting up, we think it's going to continue to increase."

Online workshops accessed by 20,000 people Credit: ITV News

Although demand is increasing, all across the hospital are signs of how the Mersey Care NHS Trust is trying to rise to that challenge.

In normal times they would offer patients workshop to help them transition back into the communityNow - classes in everything from cooking, to money management, to wellbeing, can be run online - and are reaching more than 20,000 people.

Adam Drage, Community Mental Health Manager, said: "The work that we do keeps people safe, keeps people well, and hopefully keeps people in the community.

"In about a two week period we went from never having thought of video consultations as a way of meeting people's needs, to almost being the norm in how we were going to do things going forward."Our most vulnerable people still need face-to-face appointments, and by introducing different ways of working we were able to reserve capacity to be able to see our most vulnerable people face to face as safely as possible."This hospital is one example of care after coronavirus.

It shows how the NHS has had to find a new way of doing things, and find it fast. It's a challenge that isn't over yet. After the pandemic lies an unknown task, and the end of lockdown won't be the end of this team's marathon effort.

But they see the light at the end of the tunnel, and say they're ready to face it together.