Mental health helpline for doctors extended to all frontline NHS staff in Wales

A free helpline set up to support doctors' mental health has been extended to all NHS frontline staff who are fighting coronavirus.

Welsh Government are providing an additional £1 million to expand the Health for Health Professional Wales service.

The money will not only go towards the helpline but also to employing more psychiatrists and medical advisers and to running more counselling sessions and PTSD interventions.

The expansion will mean around 60,000 staff can now access the help compared to around 10,000 previously.

All healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, healthcare professional students, paramedics, therapists, dentists and medical volunteers working in Wales during and after the pandemic can now use the service.

The service will now provide help for all frontline healthcare staff, including paramedics, dentists and healthcare professional students. Credit: Peter Byrne/PA Images

NHS Wales workers will be able to call the confidential helpline staffed by healthcare professionals, get access to face-to-face counselling sessions and be given self-help tools and online resources.

Retired healthcare staff who have returned to the NHS to help tackle coronavirus but who cannot, or do not want to return to the frontline, will help provide the extended scheme.

So far, more than 2,000 former health and social care professionals have re-joined the frontline to help treat the large number of people who need care.

These include:

  • 1,376 doctors

  • 417 nurses

  • 257 allied health care professionals and scientists have also registered their interest in returning by completing a survey

  • 358 pharmacists and pharmacy technicians have been included on the temporary register with the option to opt-out

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Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, said: “The health and wellbeing of our all our dedicated NHS Wales staff is paramount at all times but especially so during this acutely challenging time – so it’s vital we do all we can to care for them.

"The £1 million I am announcing today will help the Health for Health Professionals service in Wales expand, so that they can deal with the additional demand from NHS staff."

He added that he "we are very grateful" for the more than 2,000 staff who have rejoined the health and social care sector to help at this time.

Cardiff University run the scheme and Professor Debbie Cohen, Director of Health for Health Professionals, said: “This is an extremely difficult time for healthcare workers who are on the frontline of the fight against Covid-19 so we are expanding our doctors’ support scheme so everyone is able to access the same psychological support, regardless of what role they have in the Welsh NHS and where they are in Wales.

“They may be feeling guilt for not being able to go into work while others are able to, or trauma from what they are seeing each day on the front line. It is absolutely vital that these workers have a confidential space where they feel they can talk to peers and can access help and support in a way that suits them."

This virus has no boundaries so the way we provide support must have no boundaries. This is at the very heart of what we want to do.

Prof. Debbie Cohen, Director Health for Health Professionals
More than 2,000 people have returned to the health and social care sector to help during the pandemic. Credit: Kieran Cleeves/PA Images

This comes as Public Health Wales launched a mental health campaign called "How are you doing?" aimed at supporting people who have seen their mental health negatively affected by the virus outbreak.

They have launched a website where the public can find information offering practical help for people and links to charities and support groups.

The Health for Health Professionals service is available by calling 0800 058 2738 or through visiting the Health for Health Professionals website.