Covid crisis: Post Traumatic Stress fears for frontline workers post-pandemic

Healthcare workers who have risen to the challenge during the coronavirus pandemic could be at risk of long-term mental health problems, it has been warned.

Throughout the pandemic NHS and front-line staff have been routinely exposed to distressing events such as the loss of patients, illness of colleagues, high levels of stress and increased exposure to Covid.

Now that relentless pressure is now leading to large numbers of healthcare workers developing anxiety, depression, or in some cases Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Experts say if immediate action is not taken we are running the risk of a mental health crisis and a generation of burnt-out healthcare workers.

We've been like canaries sent down a mine. Once we were at this lady's house for half an hour doing a GP referral before she told us she had Covid and so did the rest of the family.  We're also dealing with a huge increase in callouts for mental health emergencies and suicides. After a while that's going to get to anybody.

"Kathy", North West Ambulance Service worker

"Kathy" works for the North West Ambulance Service. She asked to remain anonymous.

While the risk to frontline staff has been obvious- working in close proximity has led to several outbreaks of Covid at their call centres.

Just days before we filmed our interview Kathy found out another of her colleagues, Peter Millington, a manager at one of the regional control centres, had died from the virus.

Peter Millington, a manager at one of the regional North West Ambulance control centres, died from the virus in March 2021.

I think we are going to see a lot more people with depression and PTSD. I think a lot of my colleagues are going to leave. They stayed because of goodwill and guilt trips but I think once this has plateaued a lot of them will choose to do something else. 

"Kathy", North West Ambulance Service worker

Frontline19 offers free counselling services to NHS and frontline staff.

They are currently helping around 1,800 people a week.

Claire Goodwin-Fee, Frontline19 charity

People on the frontline are struggling now more than ever. They're struggling with anxiety, burn out, we're seeing post traumatic stress and quite significant mental health conditions because of what they have been through.

Claire Goodwin-Fee, Frontline19 charity

Steve Hynes, Deputy Director of Operations at North West Ambulance Service, said the organisation will continue to look after the mental and physical wellbeing of its staff.

He added: "We are very grateful to our dedicated staff who have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic.

"We will continue to do all we can to look after their mental and physical wellbeing and have measures in place to closely monitor and support staff welfare, such as trust-supported counselling and links to other NHS services."

But with mental health services already stretched - many NHS and frontline workers are worried high demand will mean they will not be able to access support just when they need it the most.