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A free mental health support service for doctors is to be expanded to provide support and advice for all front-line NHS Wales staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, has announced today.

First published:
16 April 2020
Last updated:

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  • Free support and advice scheme extended to 60,000 NHS Wales staff tackling coronavirus pandemic.
  • More than 2,000 former health and social care professionals return to the frontline to help deal with COVID-19.

A free mental health support service for doctors is to be expanded to provide support and advice for all front-line NHS Wales staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, has announced today.

The Welsh Government is providing an additional £1 million to support the Health for Health Professionals Wales service to employ more psychiatrists and medical advisers, run more counselling sessions and conduct further PTSD interventions.

The service, run by Cardiff University, will offer an unprecedented level of support and advice to all healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, healthcare professional students, paramedics, therapists, dentists and medical volunteers working in Wales during and post the COVID-19 pandemic.

NHS Wales staff will be able to call a confidential helpline staffed by healthcare professionals, get access to face-to-face counselling sessions and be provided with guided self-help tools and online resources.

This expanded service will be provided through retired doctors and other healthcare staff who would like to support the NHS during the pandemic but who cannot, or do not want to return to the frontline. It will also include senior academics who at present are working full time in an academic role but would like to provide additional support.

The service will also support returning retired staff and healthcare professional students who are volunteering to assist in response to COVID-19 through the COVID Hub Wales.

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

These include:

  • 1,376 doctors
  • 417 nurses
  • 257 allied health care professionals and scientists have registered their interest by completing the NHSE survey
  • 358 pharmacists and pharmacy technicians have been included on the temporary register with the option to opt-out.

Health and Social Services Minister, Vaughan Gething said:

COVID-19 is an unprecedented event. Our NHS staff are at the frontline of the response, caring for and saving the lives of patients in NHS settings across Wales.

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.

I’m also delighted to confirm more than 2,000 health and social care professionals have made the decision to re-join their colleagues on the frontline to help the NHS treat the large number of people who will need care over the coming weeks and months. This is truly remarkable and for which we are very grateful.

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.

The service is available by calling 0800 058 2738, visiting Health for Health Professionals Wales or by emailing HHPCOVID19@cf.ac.uk.

Staff can also access free online stress control tools on the Stress Control website.

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