NHS introduces free mental health hotline for staff battling coronavirus

The NHS have started a mental health hotline for frontline staff helping with the coronavirus pandemicA mental health hotline has been launched by the NHS to help support staff as they work together to battle coronavirus.

As part of a package of COVID-19 measures, staff can now call or text a number for free to receive support and advice from thousands of specially-trained volunteers.

They will listen to those staff calling and offer psychological support when it is needed.

And more than 1,500 of these volunteers have come from charities including Hospice UK, the Samaritans and Shout.

If any NHS staff require further help, they will be directed to other services – from financial assistance to specialist bereavement support.

The phone line will be open between 7am and 11pm every day. The text service will be available 24 hours a day.

Prerana Issar, chief people officer for the NHS, said: ‘We need to do everything we can to support our incredible NHS people as they care for people through this global health emergency.

‘That’s why we have developed a range of support for all NHS staff, from one to one mental health support to a sympathetic voice to confide in.

‘The NHS is rightly doing everything we can for our staff, but the best thing the public can do for nurses, doctors and other NHS staff, is to protect them by staying indoors and washing their hands.’

Additionally, the NHS has joined forces with Headspace, UnMind and Big Health to offer a variety of free apps to help support the mental health of the workforce.

Prevent burnout

Dr Mahrukh Khwaja is a dentist based in Kent, with a dual degree in Psychology and accreditation in mindfulness and resilience teaching.

As the founder of well-being company, Mind Ninja, she believes support for key workers during the pandemic is crucial.

She said: ‘I believe that wellbeing initiatives like this are a promising start in supporting the healthcare workforce under tremendous pressure.

‘Talking through concerns with trained volunteers can certainly help provide psychological support, especially for acute stressors.

‘We are fortunate in dentistry to have some existing phone services; 24 hour hotline ConfiDental and one in the pipeline by BDA and the Dentists’ Health Support Programme.’

‘The partnership of the NHS with apps, such as Headspace, UnMind and Big Health, provides another way to access wellbeing services for free for NHS staff.

‘The mindfulness, positive psychology and cognitive behavioural therapy components of these apps may be particularly beneficial for dental professionals.

‘COVID-19 will have profound long-term effects on Dentistry and a long-term approach to enhancing wellbeing is essential. I believe this approach, alongside helplines and apps, should incorporate evidence-based education to strengthen resilience, prevent burnout and foster greater wellbeing.’

High anxiety

Keith Hayes is a trustee of ConfiDental, a hotline aimed at supporting the emotional wellbeing of dental professionals.

He thinks mental health support is imperative for both NHS staff and dental volunteers.

‘I know that dentists and their teams are signing up to volunteer their services on the front line,’ he said.

‘There is a lot of anxiety out there about how we can best serve our patients, especially when we have had to close our practices. However we recognise we are essential health care ‎professionals and we’re keen to do our share.

‘There is a lot of anxiety out there and this has been reflected in the increasing numbers of calls made to ConfiDental. Dentistry is recognised as one of the most stressful occupations. Of course, when it comes to treating patients potentially carrying a deadly virus in their throat, the dental team is immediately in the front line.’

The NHS hotline for frontline workers is 0300 131 7000. Staff can also text FRONTLINE to 85258.

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