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Coronavirus: War zone therapy for Midlands NHS workers

By Thomas Parkes | Birmingham | Coronavirus | Published:

NHS staff across the region are being offered therapy usually reserved for battle-worn soldiers and victims of terror attacks.

It comes as it feared staff will be left with mental scars from their experiences on the front line of the coronavirus fight.

Health chiefs are offering a range of support to ensure front line workers deal with fear, anxiety and guilt as they reflect on their experiences.

In Sandwell, staff at the Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Hospitals Trust – which runs Sandwell General Hospital and Birmingham's City Hospital – will receive support usually given to war veterans.

They have teamed up with March Against Stress to counsel workers suffering from emotional and psychological trauma.

The service specialises in treating post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by combat veterans and survivors of terrorist attacks.

Toby Lewis, chief executive of the trust, said: "We have created a national narrative where people are some sort of heroes, that they have been in some form of conflict and they are winning.

"People are sustained by a belief that they are participating in something successful but if through their own memories, a change of public perception or through data, they were actually part of something less successful than they were led to believe, that becomes something psychologically disruptive."

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In Dudley, the Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust – which runs Russells Hall Hospital – has put a range of new services in place to help those in need.

Opening hours for the health and wellbeing service have been extended, with workers being able to access a Covid-19 staff helpline – with 24/7 access to phone and virtual counselling.

Serenity rooms have also been introduced to ensure staff re-charge during their shifts – with risk assessments being implemented for vulnerable groups.

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Diane Wake, chief executive of the trust, said: "The wellbeing of our staff is imperative during these unprecedented times.

"We are proud of what the trust has put in place for the mental health, wellbeing and experience of our staff at this challenging time, and we will continue to encourage both staff and patients to seek help and support if they need it."

In Wolverhampton, NHS staff will be able to access wellbeing support from any device, any location and at any time, the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust said.

They have access to a self-care app and guidelines for looking after their mental and physical health – with serenity rooms being set up for workers to relax.

Alan Duffell, director of workforce at the trust which runs New Cross Hospital, said: "Supporting the wellbeing of our staff during this pandemic is one of our top priorities.

"Setting up serenity and 'wobble' rooms as places for staff to have some quiet reflection time, to share their emotions and experiences, and to regroup during the day was one of our main goals.

"These are working very well and give a space for staff to have a well-earned break.

"We have also developed a set of resources for our leaders to be able to look after themselves and to support their teams."

In Staffordshire, staff at the University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust (UHNM) – which runs Stafford County Hospital – can access psychological support.

Workers can also access counselling services and a hotline, with one-on-one sessions with trained staff being on offer.

Eddie O'Grady, assistant director of human resources and organisational development, said: "We recognise that this pandemic is having an impact on the mental health of our colleagues.

"We have being using virtual technology to enable us to deliver much of this capability. I would like to thank all colleagues who are providing this support including colleagues from North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare Trust.

"It is really important to look after the health and wellbeing of our staff, so they can support our patients and their families through this unprecedented time."

Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust has been contacted for comment.

Thomas Parkes

By Thomas Parkes
Trainee Reporter - @TParkes_Star

Trainee reporter at the Express & Star, based in Wolverhampton. Got a story? Get in touch at thomas.parkes@expressandstar.co.uk.

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