NHS England launches mental health hotline to support staff during pandemic

GPs and other NHS staff can now access a new mental health hotline offering support and advice through the COVID-19 outbreak, NHS England has announced.

The helpline is run by the Samaritans and staffed by trained volunteers (Photo: Peter Cade/Getty Images)
The helpline is run by the Samaritans and staffed by trained volunteers (Photo: Peter Cade/Getty Images)

GPs and their teams can call or text the free service, which will be staffed by thousands of trained volunteers who able to give psychological support to those working on the frontline.

The hotline will be open between 7am and 11pm every day, while the text service will be operate on a 24/7 basis. It is part of a package of measures to support 1.4m NHS staff in England as they work through the pandemic, NHS England said.

GPs and other staff can reach the confidential support line on 0300 131 7000 or they can text FRONTLINE to 85258. A website at https://people.nhs.uk/help/ is also available.

Anyone who requires further help will be signposted to other services ranging from practical and financial assistance through to specialist bereavement and psychological support.

The service is being run by the Samaritans and will be manned by 1,500 volunteers from a range of charities.

Alongside the helpline, NHS Employers announced last month that NHS staff will have free access to a number of wellbeing apps until the end of 2020. The apps offer a range of support, including tools to help deal with anxiety and advice on sleep problems. The full list of apps covered by the deal is available here.

GPs under pressure

Meanwhile, NHS Practitioner Health (PH) the service that provides free support to NHS doctors and dentists in England experiencing stress, burnout and mental health isuses, has also announced that it will provide support to returning retired doctors and medical students working in clinical practice as a result of the pandemic.

In addition, it is expanding the range of resources it offers to all doctors during the coronavirus outbreak. It will be running a series of online wellbeing events, including webinars and meetings, while a range of COVID-19 Workforce Wellbeing Videos and a series of podcasts are also available. GPs can access these resources here and a calendar of the upcoming events is available here.

A twice-daily online ‘Doctors Common Room’ provides a space for doctors and dentists to connect, think and reflect on life during the pandemic, NHS PH said. Meanwhile, a virtual choir for all NHS staff has also been established.

NHS PH medical director Dr Clare Gerada, who recently recovered from the virus, urged doctors not to 'suffer in silence'. On Twitter she encouraged them to make use of the service's new online groups to connect with like-minded people.

Chief executive of NHS Employers Danny Mortimer said that as the pandemic continued NHS staff would face 'new and growing challenges on a daily basis'.

'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,' he added.