NHS staff 'traumatised' by first wave of virus

Research has revealed that nearly half of hospital staff working in ICUs during the first wave of coronavirus reported symptoms of severe anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or problem drinking.

King's College London asked 709 workers at nine intensive care units in England about how they were coping as the first wave eased. They found that many hospital staff were left traumatised by the experience, with nursing staff found to be more likely to report feelings of distress than doctors or other clinical staff in the anonymous web-based survey, which was carried out in June and July last year.

As well as nearly half reporting symptoms of severe anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or problem drinking, the study also found that one in seven had thoughts of self-harming. On the former, despite 59 per cent of staff reporting good well-being, 45 per cent met the threshold for probable clinical significance for at least one of: severe depression (six per cent), PTSD (39 per cent), severe anxiety (11 per cent) or problem drinking (seven per cent).

Professor Neil Greenberg, who led the research, said: “Our results show a substantial burden of mental health symptoms being reported by ICU staff towards the end of the first wave in July 2020. The severity of symptoms we identified are highly likely to impair some ICU staff’s ability to provide high quality care as well as negatively impacting on their quality of life.

“The high rate of mortality amongst COVID-19 patients admitted to ICU, coupled with difficulty in communication and providing adequate end-of-life support to patients, and their next of kin because of visiting restrictions, are very likely to have been highly challenging stressors for all staff working in ICUs.’