Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was among the mental health conditions reported by frontline health and social care workers (HSCWs) during the first COVID-19 lockdown, according to a new study led by researchers at UCL and the University of Haifa, Israel.
Researchers say there should be long-term support for affected staff including specialist trauma services similar to those set up for military veterans.
The ‘Frontline-COVID study’, published in the European Journal of Psychotraumatology, is based on self-reports from 1,194 HSCWs, who worked in UK hospitals, nursing or care homes and other community settings. The aim was to identify and compare the rates of mental health disorder across different job roles and places of work.
The study, carried out just after the first wave of COVID in the UK between 27 May and 23 July, 2020, found that 58 per cent of HSCWs met the threshold for any mental health disorder; 22 per cent for PTSD; 47 per cent had clinically significant anxiety and 47 per cent had depression. Symptom levels were high across all job roles and settings.
Specific concerns related infecting others with COVID; being unable to talk with their managers about how they were coping; feeling stigmatised (about their role); and not having had reliable access to personal protective equipment (PPE). Key predictors for PTSD included staff being redeployed to other teams and having had COVID themselves.
The research was conducted by the COVID Trauma Response Working Group, formed by UCL psychiatrists and psychologists, who are calling for immediate additional mental health support for HSCWs. This is the first UK study to assess mental health disorders across all health and social care settings during COVID-19.
Lead author, Dr Talya Greene (UCL Psychiatry and University of Haifa), said: “Let’s be clear: we may be on the verge of a mental health crisis across the health and social care sector. Our findings highlight the urgency for immediate long-term funding for specialist mental health services for health and social care workers.”