A Road to Recovery.....

For most of us working in health the last year has been tough with unexpected changes to our ways of working, pressure coming from all sides to respond and work in different and sometimes frightening ways, some of us working in isolation without support from our teams, others thrust into newly formed teams learning new skills or revisiting roles we thought we had left behind. There is no doubt the anxiety and stress for most of us has been intense but mixed with moments of joy when we have been able to resolve a long standing issue or a barrier of many years has melted away through necessity to make rapid change.

More than 32m people have now received a first dose of vaccine and many working in healthcare will now have had both doses. Lockdown is easing and we can all get to Primark or M&S for new socks, get a haircut and begin to reconnect with friends and family we have missed for so long.

But the NHS is still facing a massive uphill challenge, like Sisyphus forever pushing that boulder in Tartarus, the patients keep coming and the waiting lists keep growing, estimated at 4.66 million at the end of January. This may look daunting and many people may be feeling overwhelmed with what they have just been through and what may be to come. However, what Covid-19 has shown us, along with decades of constant change, is that NHS staff are amongst the most resilient and can adapt and step up to do what is needed. The overwhelming success of the vaccine campaign is testament to this and the huge efforts of so many who have taken on the task to ensure it is rolled out as quickly and efficiently as it has been.

After a year like no other NHS staff would be forgiven for feeling mentally unwell right now, for morale to be low, to be considering their career choices yet the annual staff survey, capturing the opinion of more than half a million staff, indicate that morale is, in fact, improving, that managers are taking a positive interest in the health and wellbeing of their workforce and that more options are opening up for flexible working and building on the opportunities of the last year.

What we mustn’t lose as we move forward are all of these positives – the team reflections that enable decompression and sharing of difficult shifts and cases, the connectivity of colleagues with similar issues across the country who have come together to learn from one another, share experiences and build on good practice, the opportunities for new ways of working that have enabled people to both work and be there for their families. We will need all of these on the road to recovery if that boulder is not going to slip back and crash into us again.

In the long run, NHS people will recover but for some, the last year will have opened old wounds, exposed difficult feelings and left them needing external support and recovery may need some external help – that’s where NHS Practitioner Health comes in.

NHS staff across England can now access mental health support, either by self-referral or via signposting from their local hub, regulated health and care staff in Scotland can also self-refer, meaning the service and support we offer is now open to more than 1.6 million health and care staff. If you are one of the people who may need some additional support to get you back on track, or you know a colleague or friend who could please signpost them in our direction – onto the road to recovery.

Lucy Warner 
Chief Executive, NHS Practitioner Health