• A POSTnote on mental health impacts of COVID-19 on NHS healthcare workers and carers will outline the short and long-term mental health impacts of COVID-19 on this group.
  • It will review policy approaches and support services dedicated to supporting healthcare worker mental health, with focus on special measures implemented during a pandemic.
  • Work currently in production. To contribute expertise, literature or as an external reviewer, please contact Claire Wilson. View our guidance for expert contributors.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, NHS healthcare staff have been exposed to a range of stressors including increased workload, possible exposure to infection and subsequent isolation from family and friends. This increases the risk of adverse mental health outcomes such as anxiety, depression and burnout. In a survey from the Institute for Public Policy Research, 50% of 996 UK healthcare workers reported that their mental health had deteriorated since the pandemic began. Data from NHS Digital indicate that staff sickness rates at the height of the pandemic in April were the highest they had been in a decade, with 20% of staff citing mental ill health as the reason. Yet there may also be positive impacts as a result of more assertive informal staff support and team cohesion.

Research from previous viral pandemics indicate that there may be longer-term impacts on the mental health of healthcare staff, including symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Supporting the mental health of NHS healthcare staff is critical in securing sustained capacity of the NHS workforce. While there have been a number of local initiatives, there are calls for the development of a national, evidence-based programme of support.

The aims of this POSTnote are to provide MPs and Peers with an overview setting out the evidence for the short- and long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic compared to pre-pandemic on the mental health and wellbeing of NHS healthcare staff and whether this differs from other occupational groups. It will outline interventions to support the mental health of healthcare staff and support services implemented during the current pandemic for healthcare staff. It will also review possible policy approaches to supporting the mental health of healthcare staff during the current and future pandemics. And the quality of the evidence informing this POSTnote and foci for future research.

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