230,000 new PTSD referrals forecast post-pandemic

New modelling has forecast that there could be 230,000 new referrals for post-traumatic stress disorder across England as a direct or indirect result of the pandemic.

The pandemic has increased exposure to events with the potential to cause PTSD, with frontline health and care workers and survivors of severe Covid-19 at particularly high risk.

A survey of 709 intensive care staff across six NHS hospitals in England carried out after the first wave found 40 per cent reported symptoms consistent with PTSD. This is more than twice the rate found in military veterans with recent combat experience.

Symptoms of PTSD might start immediately after a traumatic event or they might start weeks or months later. Unfortunately, many people do not get the right help when their symptoms first develop, due to stigma, misunderstanding or lack of awareness.

Neil Greenberg, expert editor of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ new patient resource, said: “It’s a common misunderstanding that only people in the armed forces can develop PTSD - anyone exposed to a traumatic event is at risk. If left untreated it can ruin the lives of those who suffer from it as well as negatively affect their families, friends and colleagues.    

“However, clearly there are jobs, including working in many healthcare settings, where experiencing traumatic events is more common so the risk of developing PTSD is unfortunately much higher. It’s vital that anyone exposed to traumatic events is properly supported at work and home. Early and effective support can reduce the likelihood of PTSD and those affected should be able to access evidence-based treatment in a timely manner. Especially our NHS staff who are at increased risk as a result of this unprecedented crisis.”