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PTSD ‘could rise by 70%’ among Northern Ireland healthcare staff working with Covid patients

The Royal College of Psychiatrists Northern Ireland is called for a phased return to normal working for NHS staff.

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Frontline workers treating Covid-19 sufferers could be particularly prone to PTSD, studies show (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Frontline workers treating Covid-19 sufferers could be particularly prone to PTSD, studies show (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Frontline workers treating Covid-19 sufferers could be particularly prone to PTSD, studies show (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) amongst NHS staff helping patients with Covid-19 could rise by 70% if they are not given the right support before returning to regular routines, psychiatrists warned.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists Northern Ireland is called for a phased return to normal working for NHS staff in the same fashion which the military uses to bring troops back from deployment.

One element is decompression, 36 hours of relaxation, briefings, and psychological resetting away from the operational environment.

Dr Gerry Lynch, chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists NI, said: “Our frontline staff work really hard at the best of times, but during the pandemic they’ve been working under much stress whilst continuing to treat those patients with mental health conditions.

This is particularly problematic if there is a second wave of the virus.Dr Gerry Lynch

“If our mental health workers are not supported during the recovery process then they may suffer significant health problems in the future and we cannot afford to not have them there, if a second wave hits.

“There is a risk that if key workers such as doctors are not supported well enough during the recovery process, then they may suffer significant mental health problems.

“This is particularly problematic if there is a second wave of the virus.”

Stormont health minister Robin Swann has published a mental health action plan which includes a dedicated Covid-19 response.

It aims to help mental health patients access the support they need.

New analysis published in the BMJ of the mental health impact of staff working with patients suffering from Covid-19 has shown the danger of not giving staff the chance to reset following a crisis.

The study suggests that staff working with patients with Covid-19 are 70% more likely to develop acute PTSD or to suffer from other psychological distress.

PA