Barts Charity’s £3m donation to support hospital staff at risk of Covid-related mental health problems

Staff at Barts Health NHS Trust hospitals who have been on the front line of the pandemic are set to

Staff at Barts Health NHS Trust hospitals who have been on the front line of the pandemic are set to receive mental health support thanks to funding from Barts Charity. Picture: Yui Mok/PA - Credit: PA

NHS staff at risk of mental health problems as a result of the coronavirus pandemic are set to benefit from a £3 million support package.

The money, raised through Barts Charity’s Covid-19 emergency appeal, will provide long-term support to those on the front line.

It will see clinical psychologists deployed within each of the five hospitals of the Barts Health NHS Trust - St Bartholomew’s, The Royal London, Newham, Whipps Cross and Mile End - for two years, beginning this autumn.

They will offer mental health first aid, counselling and wellbeing sessions to the 24,000 people working there.

This support will be integrated with the creation of physical wellbeing hubs at each of the hospitals, with the funding also set to support an extensive refurbishment programme for staff on-call rooms and upgrades to over 300 staff rest spaces.

Rachel Simkiss, consultant clinical psychologist at Barts Health NHS Trust said: “The impact of Covid has placed unparalleled pressures on NHS staff.

“During the peak many worked long, intense shifts, living away from their families and separated from their usual ways of coping due to lockdown.

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“With this funding we can deliver a service that will address issues of low mood, fatigue and early signs of more serious mental health issues. We are incredibly grateful to Barts Charity.”

Funke Bella, a senior radiographer at Newham Hospital, told how she “struggled to eat and sleep properly” during the height of the pandemic.

She said: “Apart from the obvious things, like the huge rise in the number of seriously ill patients, during the pandemic we had to maintain social distance and our shift patterns changed which meant it was so much harder to give emotional support to one another.

“I’m usually a very positive person, but during the worst months I found myself feeling withdrawn. I’m so pleased that there will be this support for me and my colleagues.”

Fiona Miller Smith, chief executive of Barts Charity, thanked those who supported the appeal.

She said: “Donations from the east London public and from our corporate partners and have made this possible.

“By funding this fantastic package of support we are honouring their wishes; standing in solidarity with our NHS workers and saying thank you to them for the incredible sacrifices they have made.”