Supporting our health and social care workers

21 Sep 2020
Woman in scrubs with hand on shoulder of older woman

In the UK we’re lucky. We’re able to turn to the NHS at some of the lowest points in our lives. On a daily basis, our health and care workers are there for us, and deal with tragedy, sickness and death. But all too often, these same front line care staff are overworked and underpaid. 

Many key workers haven’t recovered from working during the pandemic this Spring, and these are the same workers we are asking to fight COVID-19 on the frontline again this Autumn. That’s why today I’m proud that Liberal Democrat conference voted overwhelmingly to support a package improving mental health support for those health and care workers. 

You can read the full motion here.

Before the pandemic hit, sickness absence rates in the NHS were higher than in the rest of the economy. Anxiety, stress, depression and other psychiatric illnesses accounted for nearly a quarter of absences, exceeding other reasons for sickness absence. As staff are pushed harder and budgets are cut further, we’re likely to see a further increase in the rates of mental health issues among health and care staff in the coming years

Staff across the sector are also expected to be hit hard with the long-term mental health implications of the coronavirus pandemic. Following the 2003 SARS outbreak, studies found that approximately 10% of health staff involved in the response suffered from post traumatic stress disorder. Many more displayed signs of other psychological distress. 

There is a second wave of coronavirus infections on the horizon. Staff are likely to face a second hit to their mental wellbeing. To protect our health and care staff, we must act now.

Without intervention, the mental health crisis in our health and social care sector will only get worse. That’s why the Liberal Democrats are calling for a comprehensive package to support the mental health needs of health and social care staff. Liberal Democrat Conference has voted to support:

  • Expanding the COVID-19 support hotline to a 24/7 service
  • Creating a signposting service so health and care staff can more easily access the support available to them
  • Guaranteeing a universal mental health support service that can be accessed by all health and social care workers 
  • Removing HR practices which reinforce a culture of presenteeism
  • Introducing an ‘occupational health passport’ so workers do not have to relive mental health traumas every time they start a new job
  • Ensuring access to reflective practice groups with protected time to help prevent longer term mental ill health 
  • Taking steps to encourage every setting to have a qualified mental health first aider

Our health and social care heroes have always supported this country in times of need. Now it’s our turn to support them. 




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