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English pharmacy teams eligible for £15m NHS mental health initiative

A £15 million funding package has been announced to support the mental health of NHS staff in England, including pharmacy teams, as part of efforts to manage the COVID-19 impact.

NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) will invest £15m to “strengthen mental health support” for NHS workers, including “pharmacists and support staff”, it announced on Tuesday (October 20).

A spokesperson for NHSE&I confirmed to C+D today (October 22) that this means the whole pharmacy team is eligible for the services offered.

Under the scheme, NHS staff will receive “rapid access to expanded mental health services”, as part of  “efforts to deal with the second wave of COVID-19”.

NHSE&I said support funded by the £15m would also include the development of psychological and wellbeing training, “set to be rolled out this winter”.

Pharmacy staff can refer themselves to the service or be referred by a colleague, and will be “rapidly assessed and treated by local expert mental health specialists”, NHSE&I said

Those with the “most severe needs will be referred to a specialist centre of excellence”, it added.

NHS national mental health director Claire Murdoch said it is  “crucial that the NHS staff working tirelessly to protect the health of the nation throughout this pandemic are given the support they deserve”.

Ms Murdoch described healthcare frontline workers as the “backbone of the NHS”, and said the funding will “ensure they are properly supported while they continue to care for the thousands of patients who rely on the NHS.”

RPS: “COVID-19 has shown how important it is to support staff wellbeing”

Professor Claire Anderson, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society English pharmacy board, said that after “a gruelling seven months, pharmacists are already under strain as we head into what will be a challenging winter,” so it is “welcome” to see pharmacists included in the service.

“COVID-19 has shown how important it is to support staff wellbeing, wherever they might be delivering patient care,” she added.

Professor Anderson said the investment is a “positive step”, and that she hopes the government and the NHS can build on this, “so that pharmacists and all staff have equal access to support.”

Earlier this year (April 8), NHSE&I announced the establishment of a free mental health hotline, available to pharmacy teams and other NHS staff during the pandemic. The service allows NHS staff to contact a volunteer by calling a free number between 7am and 11pm every day or using a 24/7 free text service.

What do you make of the initiative?

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