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Pharmacists can access 40 NHS mental health hubs after ‘toughest year’

Community pharmacists will be able to access 40 NHS “hubs” dedicated to providing mental health support for healthcare staff “after the toughest year in health service history”.

NHS staff – including “those who are contracted to deliver NHS services”, such as pharmacists and dentists – will be able to access evidence-based mental health services via 40 dedicated hubs opening across the country “in the coming weeks”, NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) told C+D yesterday (February 22).

Staff will be able to receive support over the phone, with onward referral to online and one-to-one expert help from qualified mental health clinicians, therapists, recovery workers and psychologists, NHSE&I explained in a release.

According to guidance given to local areas, the hubs will support health and social care staff, including “substantive staff, staff on fixed-term contracts, agency staff, seconded staff and staff on placements/training”, the national commissioner told C+D.

“The hubs are free of charge and offer confidential advice and support to NHS staff who for the last year have cared for millions of people with coronavirus while keeping vital services like maternity, mental health and cancer care going,” NHSE&I said.

NHS staff will be encouraged to access the services directly, but hubs will also contact staff groups “most at-risk” to offer support, NHSE&I said.

C+D has asked for more details on this.

“Minds and bodies pushed to the limit”

NHSE&I national mental health director Claire Murdoch said: “NHS staff are used to dealing with the extremes of life on a daily basis, but this year has been exceptional, and in what is likely to be the toughest year in their career, staff have put their minds and bodies to the limit treating hundreds of thousands of seriously ill-patients with COVID-19.

“So it is vital that the people that played such a big role getting this country through the pandemic are given additional support,” she added.

The hubs already up and running in the following areas 

  • Lancashire and South Cumbria
  • Greater Manchester
  • North East and North Cumbria
  • Black Country and West Yorkshire
  • Birmingham and Solihull
  • Nottinghamshire
  • Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland
  • Norfolk and Suffolk
  • Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes
  • Hertfordshire and Essex
  • North East London
  • North West London
  • Kent and Medway
  • Sussex
  • Frimley
  • Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West
  • Surrey
  • Dorset

Several more hubs are due to go live “in the coming weeks”.

In October 2020, NHSE&I invested an extra £15 million to strengthen mental health support for healthcare staff, including pharmacy teams.

Last week, C+D revealed that stress had wreaked havoc with pharmacists’ health due to increased workload in 2020, with 57% of respondents having trouble sleeping, 29% stating they have depression, while 8% said they had suffered “suicidal thoughts”.

How have you coped during the COVID-19 pandemic?

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