A mental health hotline to support NHS staff has been launched - here’s how to access it

A new mental health phone hotline has been launched for health care workers on the NHS frontline during the coronavirus pandemic.

The hotline is free for NHS staff to call, with phone lines open between 7am and 11pm daily. The number to call is 0300 131 7000.

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Healthcare workers can also choose to text FRONTLINE to 85258 to receive the service by SMS, which is available around the clock.  

Who will the hotline be run by?

The services will be manned by over 1,500 volunteers from various charities, such as Hospice UK, the Samaritans, and Shout. 

These volunteers will be dedicated to listening to the concerns of staff, while also providing psychological support to the 1.4 million doctors, nurses, and other NHS personnel.

The NHS website states, “Anyone who requires further help will be signposted to other services ranging from practical and financial assistance through to specialist bereavement and psychological support.”

Why has the helpline been introduced?

So far there have been over 6,000 fatalities in the UK, from the people who have tested positive for the Covid-19 strain of coronavirus. Included in this figure are medical personnel working on the frontlines.

The new helpline has been introduced after staff reported not only an increasing workload, but also mounting emotional pressures, as well as fears over a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), while fulfilling their duties towards the rapidly increasing numbers of patients with serious symptoms.

NHS workers’ mental health is ‘absolutely crucial’

Speaking from the Institute of Mental Health at the University of Nottingham, professor Tom Dening, said, "The mental health of NHS staff is going to be absolutely crucial in the nation's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

"Staff are being exposed to high levels of personal risk, long hours in difficult environments clad in PPE, and also the possibility of something known as moral injury, which is the distressing awareness you may feel when you know you can't meet all the needs of the people you are trying to care for.

"This combination of factors would rattle even the most resilient of us."

Addressing the challenges NHS staff now face, Danny Mortimer, from NHS Employers, said, "As the pandemic continues, our people will face new and growing challenges on a daily basis, and it's therefore more important than ever that they are able to access resources to help them manage their wellbeing, in a way that suits their needs."

Additional advice and a video, have been issued to frontline NHS workers by a group of mental health experts at University College London. Led by Dr Michael Bloomfield, the advice given ranges from reminders to take “regular breaks during your shifts”, and to “eat, drink and sleep as well as you can”, while suggesting workers “avoid unhelpful coping strategies, such as smoking, alcohol or other drugs.”