Looking back six months, looking forward six months…..
Looking back to March this year, NHS Practitioner Health was about to launch a widescale communications exercise. We had built up our capacity, taking on additional clinicians and therapist, and were ready to spread the word to all 186,000 doctors and dentists in England that they could access our mental health and addiction services via confidential self-referral.
However as March progressed and we moved in to April we had to rapidly look at our ways of working, moving to remote consultations, reviewing capacity and exploring what might be needed to support the expected tsunami of need from stressed and distressed clinicians dealing with the Covid-19 crisis. We put out a call for help and for well over 400 offers of support, from free apps and resources to individuals and organisations wanting to offer therapeutic sessions to frontline staff.
What we actually found, was that far fewer people were looking for 1:1 support at that time, but there was a real need for connectedness, sharing experiences and reflecting on what was happening. In response we began to refocus on more wellbeing services, proactively trying to predict what clinicians might want and need, based on what our patients were telling us. We were also able to widen the scope of the offer in collaboration with NHS England to be able to offer wellbeing resources to all staff across the NHS, including the expansion of our 24/7 crisis text service provided through SHOUT.
Our online web resources were expanded providing links to wellbeing apps, guides and resources and have had more than 50,000 views over the last six months. However what has been really significant has been opening up of online spaces for staff to come together, whether this is in virtual common rooms sharing a coffee and a chat with two or three others, or large scale events exploring key topics of dealing with stress, guilt, remote working and talking about suicide. We have run almost 400 events reaching more than 6,000 individual NHS staff and have enabled groups of leaders, overseas and stranded doctors, culturally diverse groups, paramedics, and all staff to connect, share and support one another.
As we seem to be at start of next phase of the pandemic, we are looking forward to see how we deliver for the next six months. We are now seeing signs of that increase in need we predicted back in April, with registrations 40% higher in September than in April and numbers still going up. People are not necessarily more unwell based on their wellbeing scores but there are more of them. The female/male split is largely in line with the clinical workforce at 70%/30%, but the largest growth is in the age group 30-39, and in particular females in this age group which have doubled. These now represent one third of our caseload.
Some specialties have seen increases in the last six months, mainly emergency medicine, anaesthetics, psychiatry, and surgical specialties. We have also seen growing numbers from dentistry. Numbers of overseas doctors accessing support has also increased and at one stage these made up one quarter of all new registrations.
Over the months the issues and emotions that clinicians seem to be facing have changed from anticipatory anxiety to guilt, from work issues as people began to return to sites to fatigue and signs of burnout. We have tried to respond accordingly with topic-based events for home/shielding workers or CBT tools to deal with insomnia.
We are now planning a six month series of themes events under the banner of “Caring during Covid-Caring for you”. This month we kick off with events on two consecuticve days:
'Beating Burnout' Dr Sarah Goulding - Monday 19th October 2020, 7:30pm
'Taking a break from COVID-19 - how to escape, unwind and reboot in a global pandemic' - Tuesday 20th October 2020, 8pm
'Doctors & long-covid support group' - starting 14th October 2020 once a week for 9 weeks