Approved: Mental health impacts of COVID-19 on healthcare workers and carers

  • A POSTnote on mental health impacts of COVID-19 on 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.
  • Provisional start date: September 2020. To contribute expertise, literature or as an external reviewer, please contact Dr Sarah Bunn. View our guidance for expert contributors.

The COVID-19 outbreak is having a detrimental effect on the mental well-being of healthcare workers. The Institute for Public Policy Research found that 50% of 996 UK healthcare workers reported that their mental health had deteriorated since the pandemic began. Another survey of 1,257 healthcare workers in China found that people were 52% more likely to have symptoms of depression and 57% more likely to have symptoms of anxiety compared with those who were not on the frontline. Research on SARS, Ebola and influenza virus pandemics also indicate that healthcare workers are at increased risk of long-term psychological distress, often manifesting as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.

Supporting healthcare workers’ mental well-being is not only important for protecting the individual, but also for ensuring sustained capacity of the workforce. Clinicians providing national guidance through the British Psychological Society (BPS) have highlighted the importance of recognising the potential for long-term impacts. As well as providing immediate support during the pandemic, psychologists have recommended plans for a two-year recovery period with access to counselling and trauma-focused therapy. Psychologists have also expressed concerns that the provision of support, awareness of it and how to access it will vary across the UK. Several voluntary schemes have been set up to provide therapy for NHS staff, but not all services follow evidence-based guidelines; this could have negative impacts or cause healthcare workers to miss receiving appropriate care.

A POSTnote on this topic will outline the short and long-term mental health impacts of COVID-19 on healthcare workers and carers. It will review policy approaches and support services dedicated to supporting healthcare worker mental health, with focus upon special measures implemented during a pandemic.