Coronavirus: Help for Heroes supports Nightingale Hospital staff at risk of PTSD

Barts Health has been asked to manage the new Nightingale Hospital based at the ExCeL conference cen

Barts Health has been asked to manage the new Nightingale Hospital based at the ExCeL conference centre. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Help for Heroes is supporting workers at the Nightingale Hospital who are at risk of traumatic stress from working on the frontline.

The charity — made up of military veterans — has drawn up an advice package as it anticipates NHS staff will face many of the same emotional issues as occur on a battlefield.

Staff at the emergency hospital set up in the ExCeL will be the first to avail of this expertise, with further distribution to follow.

On the announcement entitled “Heroes helping Heroes”, the military charity explains why it is well-placed to offer guidance:

“We understand the battle our NHS staff and other healthcare workers are up against in the fight against coronavirus.

“We have supported more than 25,000 ex-service personnel and families, many of whom have faced similar situations to those our NHS staff are facing right now: challenging environments; working outside of normal areas of work; working with protective equipment and putting themselves at risk.”

It says there are undeniable parallels between being on the frontline of a pandemic and being at war, with the emotional burden of either experience enough to make a person vulnerable to post trumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

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Carole Betteridge, a former navy nurse who is now head of welfare and clinical services at Help for Heroes, said: “This is a conflict situation and we have to make sure we care for the carers.”

This obligation informs why James Calder, a clinical lead at the Nightingale Hospital, enlisted the charity.

In recognising the similarities between the emergency facility and a military hospital, Prof Calder said: “The stress for our nurses and doctors treating incredibly sick patients may be compounded by a feeling of vulnerability by those working in roles that are out of their previous area of expertise.”

Dr Lucia Berdondini — a senior lecturer and programme leader at the University of East London’s school of psychology — backs the “commendable” move.

She believes that much can be learned from working with veterans, adding that this crisis “could be a great opportunity to develop new guidance and revise the existing ones, to support the psychological wellbeing of our health workers in both the short and longer-term.”