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Protecting the psychological wellbeing of healthcare staff during the coronavirus pandemic

31 March 2020

Healthcare leaders and managers must take proactive steps to protect the psychological wellbeing of their staff during and after the coronavirus outbreak, according to BPS advice.

The BPS has published recommendations to help services to protect the mental health of both clinical and non-clinical teams while responding to the pandemic.

To allow for wider discussion, it will also host a live webinar this week.

BPS president David Murphy, a member of the development group, welcomed the recommendations:

“Frontline healthcare staff are already facing unprecedented demands in managing the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, and these are likely to intensify and continue for a significant period.

There are specific steps that can be taken to protect the psychological wellbeing of staff during the crisis.

We believe that implementing these measures will not only help staff to cope but also reduce the risk of longer term psychological difficulties.

Once we do reach the recovery phase of the pandemic, it is equally important that organizations adequately meet the psychological needs of staff as services do eventually begin to return to normal.”

The BPS live webinar at 3pm on Thursday 2 April will be led by David Murphy and guidance development lead Julie Highfield, who is a consultant clinical psychologist and Associate Director, Cardiff Critical Care.

They will discuss the risks that managing the pandemic brings for the psychological wellbeing of clinical and non-clinical frontline staff and discuss how the guidance can be implemented effectively through the realities of the coronavirus pandemic. There will be an opportunity for submitting questions which will be discussed during the webinar.

Our headline principles that cover response at all levels of a service are:

  1. Provide visible leadership
  2. Have a communication strategy
  3. Ensure consistent access to physical safety needs (e.g. personal protective equipment)
  4. Ensure human connection and methods of pre-existing peer support
  5. Providing psychological care to patients and families is key to staff wellbeing
  6. Normalise psychological responses
  7. Deliver formal psychological care in stepped ways
  8. Innovate to implement psychological care
  9. Come back to your core NHS, organisational and professional values in making decisions
  10. Take care of yourself and pace yourself

The full advice encompasses how to anticipate and fulfil the likely needs of healthcare staff once things begin to get back to normal and our healthcare system is able to start its recovery.

The principles that services will need to use during this phase include allowing space for taking stock and organising active learning events that involve healthcare staff at all levels.

It’s important to think about how to give thanks and rewards, assess the needs of staff and provide space for ongoing peer support.

The BPS’s Coronavirus Staff Wellbeing Group’s guidance covers each of these principles in more detail.

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