Nearly two-thirds (64%) of intensive care staff could have experienced a mental health disorder during the COVID-19 winter surge last year, according to a new study by researchers from UCL and King’s College London.
A similar proportion of employees said their ability to do their job was impaired due to their mental health, the researchers found.
A peer-reviewed study published in British Journal of Anesthesiaconcluded that the prevalence of mental health disorders among intensive care personnel is likely to affect patient care and long-term staff well-being.
As part of the study, staff from 56 intensive care units in England answered questions aimed at assessing their mental health and whether their ability to perform daily tasks was affected. In total, before last year’s winter surge (November-December 2020), during the surge (January-February 2021) and after (April-May 2021), 6,080 surveys were conducted.
The researchers found that during the growth of 64% of respondents met the criteria for the presence of mental disorders – depression, anxiety, alcohol abuse and aftertraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – while 69% of respondents reported that their ability to perform daily tasks was impaired by their mental health.
About 45% of correspondents met the PTSD criteria – a level at least as high as that of British military veterans deployed in Afghanistan in combat.
Professor Kevin Fong (UCL Science, Technology, Engineering & Public Policy, or STEaPP), a senior author and also a consultant anesthesiologist at UCLH, said: “This study shows the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the psyche. the health and well-being of NHS staff working in intensive care units. The scale and severity of the symptoms reported here cannot be ignored.
“The relatively poor mental health and well-being of the NHS workforce is a long-standing problem that has long been seen as secondary to NHS core activities. However, poor mental health affects staff absenteeism and retention, and our study is likely to affects the quality and safety of patient care.
“Improving well-being is more than better access mental health services for NHS staff. These things are necessary, but prevention, as always, is better than cure. However, prevention here is not easy and expensive: we need investment in better buildings, better places to relax, better working conditions and more staff.
“It’s often seen as a difficult choice: between investing in what patients need and what staff need. But there’s really no choice: to take proper care of our patients, we need to take proper care of our workforce.”
Professor Neil Greenberg, a professor of mental health at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neurology at King’s College London, co-author, said: “There is a wealth of evidence showing that people with mental health problems are much more likely to poorer quality of life, poor functioning at work and elsewhere and at increased risk of absence due to illness or premature retirement.
“Currently, the NHS is experiencing a constant demand for services from the intensive care unit staff, as well as from all the other amazing people who are part of the organization.
“Our results underscore the urgent need to ensure that all NHS staff can count on the support of their colleagues and executives, and have access to evidence-based care if they have enough regrets to develop a mental health problem.
“The UK already recognizes military veterans as a special group, and the Health Service provides them with special, priority medical care that allows them to gain access to screening and treatment faster than other members of the population.
“Our results show that the same should apply to NHS staff, who have undoubtedly been the country’s first line of defense for the past two years, and likely much longer. We can’t afford to have NHS staff wait.” to receive evidence-based mental health Instead, the nation must do its utmost to ensure that NHS staff affected by their work have access to first aid in the same way as military veterans. ”
Surveys were developed to assess the prevalence of four mental health disorders: depression, general anxiety disorder, alcohol abuse and PTSD. The researchers found that the level of these disorders was lower before and after the outbreak. In the April-May polls, after a surge, 45% of respondents met the criteria for mental health disorders, while 29% met the criteria for PTSD. the general public.
The level of functional impairment remained high in April-May after the surge, and 52% of respondents said that their ability to perform daily tasks deteriorated their mental health and this causes considerable concern.
Younger, less experienced staff and nursing staff were likely to meet the criteria for a mental health disorder, a study showed. More than half of the respondents were nurses (57.5%), 27.9% were doctors, and 14.5% were other nurses.
The researchers warned that the survey itself is not diagnostic and that because it is based on self-assessment of symptoms, it should be considered as an assessment of prevalence alone. However, these findings have serious implications for the NHS and how it should rebuild its workforce after the emergency problems that arose during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Charlotte E. Hall et al., Mental Health of Personnel Working in Intensive Care Units during the 2020 COVID-19 Winter Outbreak in England: A Cross-Sectional Survey, British Journal of Anesthesia (2022). DOI: 10.1016 / j.bja.2022.03.016
University College London
Citation: How the COVID-19 surge affected the mental health of NHS staff (2022, May 25) obtained May 25, 2022 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-05-covid-surge-impacted-mental-health .html
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