AAround 60,000 NHS workers have post-traumatic stress disorder after working through the Covid-19 pandemic, new research suggests.
Nine in 10 health workers say it will take them years to recover from the ordeal, according to a poll by NHS Charities Together. One in four had lost a colleague to the corona virus.
Mental health workers and experts are now calling for more support from the NHS and the UK Government to support those struggling in the wake of the pandemic.
“I think it’s pretty clear that there hasn’t been enough support to help NHS staff recover from their experiences during the pandemic. As a result, many people feel incredibly drained,” said Dr. Ed Patrick, an NHS anesthetist who has worked in a Covid-19 intensive care unit since the pandemic began.
Speaking of his experience working on the front lines of healthcare, Dr. Patrick: “Like everyone else in the world, we lost our options for sacking. Everything has been shut down and for NHS workers our lives have become hospitalized.
“Personally, it was only after the pandemic subsided that I realized what I was going through.”
Describing the long and grueling hours and emotional drain of working at the height of the pandemic, he said: “We all had an overwhelming sense of powerlessness. There was also a deep sadness because everything you would normally do to help patients just wasn’t working. Normally, when a person’s oxygen level is low, you give them oxygen, and then their oxygen comes up. That just didn’t happen in the Covid ICU.”
dr Gauhar Sheikh, a doctor of anaesthesia, who was working for the NHS in Edinburgh at the time, described the difficulties she faced on the front lines of healthcare.
“Working in the ICU during the pandemic has been quite an eye-opener,” she said. “I was part of the teams that brought critically ill patients into the ICU and had to escalate their plans. Some had to be euthanized and ventilated. Some made it and some didn’t. You remember everyone
“The biggest impact for me was not being able to see my elderly grandpa in his last year and my new niece in her first year as much as I would have liked,” continued Dr. Sheikh gone. “I have maintained this distance for health reasons and the fact that I am working directly with Covid-19 patients.”
Both doctors are not surprised by the rise in PTSD among NHS workers and are calling for more support for them in the wake of the pandemic.
dr Sheikh said she would like more compassion and understanding of what frontline medical workers need to have, and Dr. Patrick said there needs to be a lot more training and jobs available in the NHS for those who want it.
“It’s clear we need more doctors and nurses,” he said, “and because we don’t have that extra staff at the moment the NHS staff is burned out and it makes the system unattractive to work in.
“It’s sad because these people love their work, I love my work. But the reality is that we’ve all been through a very traumatic time. For the NHS as a service and the people who work so hard on it, there has to be a way back. The NHS is the sum of its staff and those staff are asking for support.”
dr Rhianna McClymont, senior GP at medical app Livi, said: “Many frontline workers have been and continue to be exposed to death and dying on a scale few have experienced before, while themselves being at risk of dying.
“This could have a significant impact on them, and some experience symptoms of PTSD, particularly when reliving traumatic events through flashbacks,” she added.
“However, it is important to remember that difficult situations can also exacerbate PTSD from previous traumatic events. A healthcare worker’s PTSD may be related to traumatic events experienced prior to the pandemic, and the pandemic may have worsened their condition and made treatment more difficult.
“This is important because it should inform how their treatment will be administered in the future,” said Dr. McClymont.
An NHS spokesman said: “Staff are the lifeblood of the NHS which is why, in response to the pressures of the pandemic, we have stepped up the mental health support offered to them to ensure they have fast access to an evidence-based assessment of mental health services and Support.
“This includes 40 local staff mental health and wellbeing centers across the country, providing proactive outreach and clinical assessment, as well as an ongoing focus within NHS organizations on staff health and wellbeing.”